If you’re looking for an extra dose of fireworks this New Year’s Even, look to the skies for the chance to see a comet that only comes around every five years.
The comet — named Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková — is set to appear somewhere near the crescent moon on Dec. 31. It won’t be visible to the naked eye, however.
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Interested skywatchers will need a set of binoculars or a small telescope to really be able to see the comet in clear skies.
While comets have historically been seen as bad omens, Comet 45P doesn’t pose a threat to Earth. The ball of ice and dust will still be millions of miles from the planet when it makes its close flyby this month.
This isn’t the comet’s first pass of the planet. Comet 45P makes a full orbit of Earth every 5.25 years, allowing scientists to track it.
These “periodic comets” are on predictable paths around the sun and can lend themselves to some good skywatching. (Halley’s comet, for instance is also a periodic comet.)
Comet 45P — which like other comets is thought to be a leftover piece of ice and rock from the beginning of the solar system — has been gracing skies for most of December, first appearing on Dec. 15 when it was visible near the star cluster M75.
And the comet isn’t the only cosmic sight in the sky on Dec. 31.
Mars, which has been visible for most of the month, will look like it’s right next to the blue/green tinted Neptune even though the two are millions of miles away from each other in reality.
Venus, which can masquerade as a bright star at dawn or dusk, will also be visible in the western sky along with Neptune and Mars on New Year’s Eve.
“Through telescopes, rusty red Mars and blue-green Neptune‘s colors contrast beautifully,” NASA said.
December in general is a pretty solid month for skywatching. However, the Geminid meteor shower, usually one of the best annual showers of the year, was washed out by a bright moon this year.