But there will likely be two more comets (or a comet and an asteroid) in store for skywatchers in early 2017, NASA said. (Plus, Comet Catalina will still be visible with magnification in the morning sky.) [Best Close Encounters of the Comet Kind]
The first comet of the New Year, called C/2016 U1 NEOWISE, was detected by NASA’s NEOWISE mission in October and will likely be visible from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere during the first week of 2017.
“It is moving farther south each day, and it will reach its closest point to the sun, inside the orbit of Mercury, on Jan. 14, before heading back out to the outer reaches of the solar system for an orbit lasting thousands of years,” NASA officials said in a statement.
Although skywatchers using a “good pair of binoculars” have a chance of spotting C/2016 U1 NEOWISE as it passes by Earth, visibility depends greatly on the comet’s unpredictable brightness, Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in the statement. Comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE is not considered to be a threat to the planet, the statement said.