TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - A comet, easily seen with binoculars, could possibly be seen with the naked eye by the end of the month.
Comet Catalina is at its closest approach to the sun this weekend. Comets generally become brighter and display a more pronounced tail when closer to the sun. These small celestial objects are made up of ice. As that melts, out-gassing creates the tail.
The below image was snapped on Oct. 1, 2015 by José J. Chambó. It shows the tail of the comet extending well away from the core.
It is no coincidence the Comet Catalina bears the same name as the Santa Catalina Mountains lining the north side of the Tucson basin. The comet was discovered in October 2013 by the Catalina Sky Survey, located on top of Mt. Lemmon.
Comet Catalina has grown brighter and brighter in the night sky over the past two years. However, EarthSky.org writes "comets have been shown to be unpredictable, so it may become brighter or fainter. Sometimes comets even disintegrate." That means it is hopeful that people will see the comet with the naked eye in coming weeks, but a sudden dimming could also occur.
To see Comet Catalina, look east and low in the sky about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes before sunrise, which is around 7 a.m. by the end of November. Because of the low proximity in the sky in early November, the comet may be difficult to spot, especially it you live on the western edge of the Sky Island mountain ranges. The location of the comet will be slightly higher up in the eastern sky by the end of the month, making it easier to spot. EarthSky.org suggests using binoculars to first locate Comet Catalina, then remove the binoculars for a possible look without aid.
The image below is from EarthSky.org. The comet will generally be below Venus in our pre-dawn skies by late November.
A week later, Comet Catalina will be located to the left of Venus.