LANSING, Mich. (Michigan News Source) — This summer, Michigan’s night sky will dazzle with the rare return of Comet 13P/Olbers. For the first time in nearly 70 years, this comet will be visible, giving residents across the state a unique opportunity to witness a piece of cosmic history.

Comet 13P/Olbers was discovered in 1815 by German astronomer Heinrich Wilhelm Matthäus Olbers. It belongs to a group of comets known as Halley-type comets, which have long orbital periods. This particular comet completes an orbit around the Sun roughly every 69 years. Its last visible appearance was in 1956, making its upcoming visit especially significant, according to Star Walk.

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Michigan offers some of the best viewing conditions for this event, thanks to its numerous rural areas with minimal light pollution. On June 30, Comet 13P/Olbers will be at its brightest, reaching a magnitude of 6.5. For Michigan residents, this means the comet will be visible with binoculars or a small telescope.

One of the best times to see the comet will be about two hours after sunset on June 30. Look towards the western horizon. The comet will be positioned between 20 and 30 degrees above the horizon, as reported by Universe Today. Use the width of your fist at arm’s length to estimate degrees—two to three fist-widths above the horizon is where you will find it. According to MLive, heading to an open area away from city lights is essential, such as rural locations or designated dark sky parks in Michigan. 

While the comet will be faint, binoculars or a small telescope will help you see it more clearly. Use apps like Sky Tonight or Star Walk to locate Comet 13P/Olbers in real time. These apps can guide you to the comet’s exact position in the sky. Check the weather forecast for clear skies on your planned viewing night. Even a few clouds can obstruct your view of the comet.

Key dates for Michigan viewers include June 30, when Comet 13P/Olbers reaches its closest point to the Sun and is at its brightest; July 2, when the comet passes near the star Alsciaukat; July 14, when the comet enters the constellation Leo Minor; and July 28, when the comet moves into the constellation Ursa Major.

This rare event provides a wonderful chance to appreciate the beauty of the night sky, and it won’t happen again until 2093, so don’t miss it!