Comet by Night

Leave the telescope in the house and just walk outside. A comet that unexpectedly brightened in the last couple of weeks is now visible to the naked eye.

The comet is exploding, and its coma, a cloud of gas and dust illuminated by the sun, has grown to be bigger than the planet Jupiter. The comet lacks a tail but can be seen in the northern sky as a fuzzy spot of light about as bright as the stars in the Big Dipper.

University of Tennessee astronomy director Paul Lewis in Knoxville is drawing students to the roof of the physics building for special viewings of the comet. He says this is truly a "celestial surprise" and a once-in-a-lifetime event to witness.

Experts aren't sure how long the comet's show will last, but they estimate it could be weeks if not months. They say using a telescope or binoculars help bring the comet's details into view. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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