This is the only time this comet will be visible from Earth for thousands of years.
An object detected by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) is set to travel close to Earth meaning we could see it with just a pair of binoculars.
The object is thought to be a comet named C/2016 U1 NEOWISE which releases dust as it travels nearer the sun and was detected late last year along with another nine comets and 99 asteroids as part of a process to look out for potentially dangerous threats from near-Earth objects (NEOs).
The reason for this comet’s rarity is because, unlike other comets that pass close to Earth every 75 to 80 years, C/2016 U1 NEOWISE will take thousands of years. Seeing the comet may be hit and miss as the brightness of the comet is difficult to predict but expert stargazers advise to have a good pair of binoculars or telescope to get a good chance of seeing it.
The rare sight will likely be visible in the southeastern sky for observers in the Northern Hemisphere and is expected to reach the closest point to the sun on Jan. 14
A second detection has been made by NEOWISE meaning an object which is something between an asteroid and a comet is set to travel towards Earth in February and will most likely be visible. This object, named 2016 WF9 is roughly 0.3 to 0.6 miles (0.5 to 1 kilometre) across.
“The trajectory of 2016 WF9 is well understood, and the object is not a threat to Earth for the foreseeable future,” explains NASA.