Comet 13P/Olbers Is Approaching Earth: When and How Can You See It?

11th Jul 2024
Comet 13P/Olbers Is Approaching Earth: When and How Can You See It?

On 20 July, the comet 13P/Olbers will reach the nearest point to our planet. While it is somewhat hard to say when it will be the brightest to observe (and if it even will), there is still a chance to see it. Who, when and where gets this chance? We discovered it for you – scroll the article down.

According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Comet 13P/Olber orbits the sun every 25,400 days, which is exactly 69.54 years. The last time it could be seen from Earth was in 1956. In 2024, the comet could be visible from Saturday until July 21.

Where Is Comet 13P/Olbers Now?

As of 11 July, comet 13P/Olbers is in the constellation of Ursa Major, 285,346,792 kilometers from Earth.

The path of 13P/Olbers across the sky
The path of 13P/Olbers across the sky in June and July. Credit: Vito Technology, Inc. /

How Close Will The Comet Pass to Earth?

As Space Reference stated, comet 13P/Olbers will pass as close as 0.48 AU (astronomical units) from Earth. NASA defines one astronomical unit as about 93 million miles, so even half an AU is a considerable distance away.

A curious fact: because the comet 13P/Olbers is relatively close to Earth, NASA classifies it as a “near-Earth asteroid.” However, it’s not dangerous.

Where And How To Watch The Comet?

Skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere, including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, most of Europe, China, and Japan, will have the best opportunity to see the comet 13P/Olbers. It will appear low in the northwest sky; however, it won’t be visible to the naked eye. But don’t get upset: arm yourself with a binocular or a small telescope and go watch the spectacle for about two hours after sunset. 

Additionally, keep in mind that your ability to observe the comet 13P/Olbers also depends on weather conditions and how bright nearby city lights are.

Why Is The Comet 13P/Olbers Called So?

The comet is named after the German astronomer Heinrich Olbers, who was the first to see it on 6 March 1815. Later, astronomers Carl Gauss and Friedrich Bessel figured out that the comet’s orbit was just under 74 years, which is about five years shorter than what we think now.

The number 13 in its name means that the comet Olbers was the 13th comet to be identified as having a regular orbit. The letter P points out that the comet is periodic, meaning it orbits the sun in less than 200 years.

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