'Christmas Comet' Will Pass Earth At Closest Distance In Centuries On Sunday Evening

This picture taken from Paris region with a telescope on December 3, 2018, shows the 46P/Wirtanen comet as it will come closer to Earth on December 16, 2018. NICOLAS BIVER/AFP/Getty Images

The 'Christmas Comet,' a green orb which orbits between Jupiter and the sun, will pass Earth on Sunday evening at the closest distance in centuries. The comet only passes Earth once every 5.4 years, according to the New York Times. It will be 7.1 million miles from the earth on Sunday, 30 times farther from earth than the moon, NASA explained.

The comet, whose scientific name is 46P/Wirtanen after scientist Carl Wirtanen, who first discovered it in 1948, follows the Geminid meteor shower, which began on December 7 and is expected to end December 16 according to In The Sky.

The comet is described to have a green tint and fuzzy demeanor. University of Maryland Research Scientist Tony Farnham explained why. "The fuzziness is just because it's a ball of gas basically," he said. "You've got a one-kilometer solid nucleus in the middle, and gas is going out hundreds of thousands of miles." The light from the comet emits green wavelengths, hence the green color.

The "Christmas Comet" is considered to be hyperactive. This means it gives off more water than a typical comet. Its color and gas type are also things that researchers would like to study more.

Compared to the other meteors and comets, the "Christmas Comet" will be easier to study, Farnham explained. "The fact that it's brighter means we can study a lot of different gas types that we normally can't study because they're too faint," he told the New York Times. The studies hope to pinpoint where the comet is originally from.

The comet's close approach lies in the top 10 comet appearances in the last 70 years. It will be visible not only on Sunday night, but into the next weeks. Farnham explained it can be seen Monday and a few days after in the same, powerfully colored state as Sunday. After that, the color may fade, but the comet will still be visible.

But after the week, viewers can expect the next time it circles this close, they'll be dead. Farnham said it's uncertain when exactly the comet will come so close, but it won't be for hundreds or thousands of years.

The comet will be visible with the naked eye for many who live in areas of little light pollution. In areas with substantial light pollution, a telescope or binoculars may be necessary.