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See newfound Comet Iwamoto before it leaves for 1,371 years

It was spotted for the first time in December and it's already leaving, but not before putting on a show tonight.


Comet Iwamoto seen from Rome.

Gianluca Masi

Normally there's plenty of advance notice when a comet is visiting our cosmic neighborhood, but Comet Iwamoto (also known as C/2018 Y1) was only discovered in December. 

The new-to-us space snowball is also quite speedy, moving at 147,948 miles per hour (238,099 km/h), and has an especially oblong orbit that takes 1,371 years to complete. 

And because the comet passed by its closest point to us Tuesday, it's already on its way out of town and receding fast --not to return until roughly the year 3390. 

Fortunately, this green, glowing comet is bright enough to see with binoculars or a small telescope for a few more nights. If you're able to catch it Wednesday, you might be in for a special treat. 

The spiral galaxy NGC 2903 as seen from Mt. Lemmon Observatory.

University of Arizona

That's because the comet will be passing near a spectacular spiral galaxy, NGC 2903, on February 13 in the constellation Leo. It will be a little easier to catch the full sight from Europe and Africa, though it's possible to get a glimpse of the pairing from the Americas if you head out with a telescope as night falls. 

You can get a more precise idea of where and when to look for Iwamoto by putting your viewing location into this page at The Sky Live.

If there are cloudy skies where you are or you'd prefer a guided look at Iwamoto, the Virtual Telescope Project and astronomer Gianluca Masi will be holding a live webcast viewing from Rome starting at 1 p.m. PT Wednesday. You can check it out via the embed below:

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