Comet Wirtanen passed extremely close to Earth earlier this month and its approach was observable several days in advance. Up to a week in advance of its arrival, the comet could be observed with the naked eye in parts of Ireland. It was also observed and reported by Astronomy Ireland, a nonprofit educational organization based in Northern Ireland. The organization reported that the comet had been observed by people in rural parts of the country, where artificial light didn’t obscure the view.
The course of Comet Wirtanen placed it in close proximity to Earth, bringing it the closest it will come to the planet within our lifetime. People in the suburbs of Ireland’s cities were able to view the comet on various nights throughout the month of December. Since the comet’s visibility was at its height on December 14th, Astronomy Ireland organized a viewing party for local enthusiasts. Although Comet Wirtanen was at its brightest on this night, the organization provided high power telescopes, which the public was able to use to get a closer look at the phenomenon.
The viewing party was held at Astronomy Ireland’s central headquarters, which is located in Blanchardstown, West Dublin.
The organization also publishes a magazine, entitled Astronomy Ireland. David Moore, who serves as the magazine’s editor, commented that Comet Wirtanen was the closest and brightest a comet has appeared in recent years. It was mostly visible in Irish skies due to its course and speed.
Moore explained that the viewing party was intended to provide the best possible experience for spectators. The organization’s staff was on hand to help attendees view the comet without the aid of the telescopes. Afterward, it was easier for the attendees to adjust the telescopes to help them view the comet in greater detail. Mr. Moore explained that the telescope magnified the view by thousands of times. The viewing party was free of charge.
Since it’s rare for comets to pass Earth so closely, the phenomenon provided an opportunity for the public to view something they’re not likely to see again. While the comet could be viewed without help, the use of the telescopes provided a closer view of the comet. Additionally, its brightness helped in observing the details of the comet more accurately. Comet Wirtanen has now passed beyond Earth’s vicinity.
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