Comet Leonard lights up the sky this Christmas night



80,000 years ago, Comet Leonard zoomed past Earth for the first time. Now, it lights up the sky once more. Leonard is the most anticipated and brightest comet of the year. It was first discovered by Gregory Leonard, a senior research fellow at the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Laboratory, earlier this year.

The comet arrived 21 million miles from Earth – the closest it will be – on December 12 and is currently heading towards the sun. It is traveling at 158,084 miles per hour, relative to Earth, according to the astronomical website EarthSky.

“This is the last time we see a comet,” Leonard said in an interview published by the University of Arizona. “It is accelerating at an exit velocity, 44 mph. After shooting the slingshot around the sun, it will be ejected from our solar system, and it could crash into another star system millions of years from now.”

The comet can be seen at night about an hour after sunset above the southwestern horizon. Experts are saying use Venus as your guide to help you find comets. NASA says you may need binoculars to spot it.

This will be the last chance stargazers have to see before the comet goes deep into space – if it doesn’t break up first. Comets, which are largely made up of space dust, rock and ice, can disintegrate at any time.

The NASA and ESA Solar Orbiter Imager captured several images of the comet that passed by Earth last week. They used the images to create a videotapes.

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Aila Slisco

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