You should be able to observe it using binoculars for next couple of weeks but the best nights will be around January 8-10th, as there will be no moon in the late night sky.
Why do comets and especially Virgin Comets have two tails ?
Virgin Comet Catalina with 2 tails
Comet Catalina is ready for its close-up. The giant snowball from the outer Solar System, known formally as C/2013 US10 (Catalina), rounded the Sun last month and is now headed for its closest approach to Earth in January … Although not as bright as early predictions, the comet is sporting both dust (lower left) and ion (upper right) tails, making it an impressive object for binoculars and long-exposure cameras.
Comet Catalina Emerges | NASA
So what’s so special about this comet? Well, as you can see from the gorgeous photo at the top of this post, it has two tails pointing in different directions! Many comets have two tails—one made of gas and the other from dust. As the comet nears the Sun, it warms up. Comets have lots of ice in them, which turns directly into a gas as it heats up (this is called sublimation).
Ultraviolet light from the Sun ionizes the gas (strips an electron or electrons from the atoms making it up), giving it an electric charge. This makes it very sensitive to the solar wind, which is a stream of subatomic particles blowing off the Sun at very high speed. This grabs onto the ionized comet gas and blows it straight out, away from the Sun.
At the same time, as the gas sublimates, it releases dust embedded in it. This doesn’t get affected much by the solar wind, but the intense sunlight itself exerts a tiny pressure on it, gently pushing it away from the comet. That tends to fall behind the comet in the orbit, like dirt being blown off a dump truck.
So you get two tails pointing in different directions. In the case of Catalina, we see it at an angle that makes it look like they point in opposite directions, but that’s just perspective. The diagram below should hopefully make that clear.
How to spot it Comet Catalina | Business Insider
Comet C/2013 US10 Catalina shows two spectacular tails and a bright aqua coma this morning (Dec. 6). The dust tail, made of dust boiled off the comet during it recent close approach to the sun, points to the southeast. Sunlight pushes the dust away from the coma. The gas tail is made of gases such as carbon monoxide that fluoresce in solar ultraviolet light.
Comet Catalina Impresses | Astro Bob
Virgin Comets in Collision
But there’s another thing about this comet that’s pretty astonishing: This is the first and only pass it will ever make to the inner solar system. Catalina is coming from very deep space, probably out in the Oort cloud, the vast repository of icy bodies far, far beyond the orbit of Neptune. Its orbit may have originally been millions of years long! But something gave it a kick—perhaps a star that passed a couple of light years away a million years ago, or the tides from the galaxy itself—and dropped it toward the Sun. This kick also gave it a teeny bit more energy, just enough added speed that it achieved escape velocity. That means it has enough energy to escape from the Sun altogether, and is on its way out of the solar system forever (this is technically called a hyperbolic orbit).
So this is it. If you want to see this comet, you’d better take the chance over the next month or so. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.
How to spot it Comet Catalina | Business Insider
Beyond the planets, in the darkness far from the Sun, orbits a swarm of blocks of ice and dust – inactive comets. No one has actually seen this swarm, for at that distance the blocks are too faint to detect with any telescope. Rather, the swarm’s existence has been deduced from the fact that virgin comets, making their first approach to the Sun, arrive on highly elongated orbits that must originate partway to the nearest star.
The comet cloud | Ian Ridpath
Electric Universe Virgin Comets tale
With electrochemical processes explaining the water found around the comet but not on or in the comets surface material?
Virgin comets or electrical comet discharging? Would comets from the theoretical Oort Cloud or just from the deeper orbits of our solar system, be at a very different electrical charge to the the Suns plasma (solar wind?) and that is why they have electrical discharge/stress phenomena?
Normally, a nice, fluffy comet would brighten intrinsically for some weeks after its closest approach to the sun. Combine this with an approach to the Earth, and that normally would spell a much brighter show. But unfortunately, Comet Catalina is a “virgin comet,” having come straight out of the Oort Cloud — the supposed source of all comets — perhaps from a distance of 93 trillion miles (150 trillion km), or 100,000 times the Earth’s distance from the sun. Such comets have never been exposed to the heat and light of the sun and have a propensity to initially brighten rapidly before ultimately “petering out” upon getting closer to the sun. That seems to be precisely what happened to Comet Catalina; it is possible the comet experienced an outburst in brightness during late July or August and has since spent the past several months fading back to “normal.”
How to See Comet Catalina in the Early-Morning Sky | Space
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