Your last chance to see Comet Catalina before it vanishes forever

Comet Catalina, showing activity in its long dust tail. This picture was taken by Gerald Rhemann.

Comet Catalina, showing activity in its long dust tail. This picture was taken by Gerald Rhemann. - Credit: Archant

Comet Catalina is coming calling – for the last time.

The stunning object is due to pass over the region tonight and over the next few evenings as it makes its final orbit of the sun before it disappears forever.

Experts predict the sky should be clear enough to see the comet with the naked eye from our area, although it will be best viewed in the countryside, away from light pollution.

At around midnight, the blue light will travel across the sky. This will then be repeated at a similar time over the next few days, as it moves closer and closer to Earth.

It is due to reach its nearest point on Sunday, January 17, and could even be visible during daylight at certain points.

After that date, astronomers believe it will gradually move away again, though remain visible with binoculars for around a month, as it travels towards the North Star. But its unpredictable nature could see it depart earlier.

After that point, it will leave the solar system for good.

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Comets are known for their dust tails and Catalina's measures more than 83 million miles in length.

Unusually it also has an ion tail, hence its distinctive blue colouring.

Lawrence Harris, an astronomer who writes for the EDP, said: 'It is a one-off approach to the sun for the comet.

'It probably got too close to a star or asteroid and it was given such a kick it will go once around the sun and then disappear from the solar system forever.

'People just need to look for the brightest star in the sky, Sirius A, and they will see the comet pass by.

'It is very unusual to have such a bright comet in the northern hemisphere.'

Discovered two years ago by a team of American astronomers, its full name is Comet2013US10.

Although it has passed overhead before, this will be the first time it will be visible to the naked eye.

If you have any images of the comet, please email them to jemma.walker@archant.co.uk