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How Aussies can spot Comet Leonard as it passes Earth

Aussies can catch a glimpse of a rare comet shooting through the skies, but it’ll only be in the atmosphere until January 3.

C/2021 A1 (Leonard), aka Comet Leonard, was first discovered in January this year by astronomer Greg Leonard and has likely spent the past 35,000 years travelling towards the sun, according to Sky & Telescope.

EarthSky also said the comet was an “ultrafast comet”, blazing through the inner solar system at 71 kilometres per second, but it would still appear like a slow-moving object due to its distance from Earth.

Comet Leonard – dubbed the Christmas comet – came within 34 million kilometres of Earth on December 12 and then on Saturday it passed by Venus.

It has since become brighter as it nears the sun, making it more visible in the night sky.

Astronomers say it is now bright enough that stargazers would be able to see it with binoculars, especially if you were in a dark sky location.

Astronomer Jonti Horner of the University of Southern Queensland said it was the nearest comet to ever sweep past Venus.

“That means from the point of view of Venus, it will be really, really spectacular,” he said.

There is even a chance that as it passes by, it will kick up some dust and create a meteor shower.”

Back on Earth, it will appear as a fuzzy blob sitting just to the left of Venus on the western horizon just after sunset.

The best time to see the comet is in the evening as it sets below the horizon, just as twilight ends.

To get the best view you’ll need to find somewhere with a clear view of the horizon and get away from lights.

The full moon will also be in the sky on Saturday night, but astronomers don’t think this will interfere much.

Each night the comet will be higher in the sky as it moves further from Earth and visible between one and two hours after sunset.

By Christmas night it should be lined up to the left of Jupiter.

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