A strange green comet will reach maximum brightness on this Saturday, offering a sweet treat for stargazers. Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova (named after the astronomers who discovered it in 1948) journeys into the inner part of the solar system every 5.25 years. On Saturday, 45P will zip pass just 7.4 million miles from Earth, on cosmic scales this distance is minor.
Anyone interested can see this comet with binoculars or a small telescope, comet 45P can be spotted in the pre-dawn skies between Thursday and Sunday. Comet 45P will be racing through the constellation Hercules high in the eastern sky. Comet 45P will appear like fuzzy bluish-green ball with a fan-shaped tail. Its unique color comes from evaporating diatomic carbon, a gas which glows green in the near-vacuum of space.
Comet 45P's forthcoming pass will be the eighth closest comet since modern tracing technologies started around 1950.
Proximity makes the comet bright despite its small size. Forecasters say 45P could be on the verge of naked eye visibility… when it emerges into the pre-dawn sky later this week.