Halley's Comet is close enough to be seen through binoculars. Though it will be getting closer from now through mid-December and showing more of a tail, the comet currently looks like a "gray cotton ball," as astronomers describe it, about half the apparent size of the moon.

The comet will be easiest to find around 9 each night from Thursday through next Sunday because it will be near the Pleiades, a constellation of faint, clustered stars now in the eastern sky.

Astronomers suggest that viewers face due east and look about halfway up (45 degrees up from the horizon) for the Pleiades. Using binoculars (at least 7 x 50 power), place the Pleiades at the top of the field of view. The comet should be near the center of the picture on Thursday.

Each night it will move up and to the right of the constellation a little more. By Sunday night, Halley's will be in the center of the field of view if the Pleiades are at the left edge.

As always when observing the night sky, it is best to get as far away as possible from artificial lighting that washes out the sky.

If it is normally possible to see the Milky Way from a certain observation point, viewers should have little trouble seeing the comet as well.

Halley's is now about 78 million miles from Earth, racing at about 54,000 mph toward the sun.

Prospects for seeing the comet have improved in recent days because it unexpectedly became about three times brighter than predicted.

Even so, it will still have to get about 2 1/2 times brighter to be seen with the naked eye.