When we think of a comet we may picture a bright spectacle with a long tail stretching across the heavens, something to make even someone who never gives the night sky a passing glance, reason to look up and point. The fact is, most comets are not at all spectacular in those terms. If your’e up to a challenge, there’s comet to be seen the next clear, reasonably dark night. Comet 46P Wirtanen is gracing our skies, in the late fall on 2018 and into the early winter of 2019. To be technical, until a comet completely disintegrates, it always in the sky, but usually it is too far away for anyone to see it. Comet Wirtanen has brightened to +4th magnitude and is faintly visible to unaided eyes as a dim, fuzzy patch in a dark sky. This is how it appeared to me when I looked December 10th. The comet is currently well up in the southern sky around 10 p.m., but may be seen in the southeastern sky earlier in the evening. Binoculars give a much better view. With these, the comet was a fairly large patch, brighter towards the middle; no trace of a tail could be seen. First quarter Moon is on December 15; as the Moon grows to full phase on the 22nd, observing the comet will become increasingly difficult to impossible. Fortunately, Joe Rao, in an article for Sky & Telescope, predicts that the comet to still be around +4th magnitude in the last week of the year, when we have a widening window of darkness before the Moon rises. In that time, the comet will have gradually moved towards the northern sky. Like a Christmas present, Comet Wirtanen becomes even more of a joy as it nears one of the night sky’s brightest stars, around Christmas time. That simply makes the comet much easier to find, if you are not accustomed to using a star chart. Between December 22 and 25, look for the comet close to the bright yellow-white star Capella, in the constellation Auriga. on December evenings, face east and look up high,well above Orion. You will find Capella. Around midnight in mid-December, Capella is due south and very high in the sky (as seen from mid-northern latitudes). Comet Wirtanen comes closest to Capella on the nights of December 22 and 23, just a few degrees south and east of the star. Take a look very early, before moonrise to get the best view. Binoculars will aid you. When it is nearest to Capella, the comet and star should both fit in the same field view in 7x binoculars. Note: It is very hard to predict brightnesses of comets. You will need dark-adapted eyes and be away from significant light pollution. Your chances increase if you look when the comet is higher in the sky. Comet Wirtanen is especially interesting in that this comet makes the 20th closest approach to Earth go any comet in 12 centuries. Closest approach is on December 16 when it will be 7,199,427 miles away. The comet was discovered by Carl Alvar Wirtanen on January 15, 1948 at Lick Observatory in California. For more information,including detailed charts, see the article at https://www.skyandtelescope.com/astronomy-news/comet-46p-wirtanen-approaches-earth/ Keep looking up! Peter Becker is Managing Editor at The News Eagle in Hawley, PA. Notes are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please mention in what newspaper or web site you read this column.