For the next few weeks, Earth will be getting a gorgeous little visitor in the night sky, just in time for some holiday magic. (Better than magic, obvs, because it's science and it's real.)
The Comet Catalina (AKA C/2013 US10), a dazzling two-tailed comet, is currently debuting for the first -- and only time -- in history. The photos of this cosmic visitor are already breathtaking, so if you've some really good binoculars, we highly suggest bustin' them out.
"[Comet Catalina's] orbit is tilted rather severely to the Earth’s; it has an inclination of 149° (or, if it helps, about 30° from Earth’s but moving around the Sun in more or less the opposite sense from Earth)," Phil Plait, astronomer and Slate writer, noted. "In the sky it’s moving in a northerly direction, so folks north of the equator will see it higher in the morning every day.
According to Plait, Comet Catalina "will be closest to Earth on Jan. 17, when it’ll be roughly 100,000,000 kilometers away, and "after that it’ll pull away and start to dim, so seeing it will be harder."
To catch it now, you'll have to get up before dawn. However, as EarthSky notes, "Although it’ll still be visible in the predawn skies in January, 2016, the celestial visitor will gradually become a night sky object."
You can check out the comet's trajectory here.