Tags: april fools day | comet | earth | flyby

April Fool's Day Comet Making Closest Earth Flyby Since 1858

Image: April Fool's Day Comet Making Closest Earth Flyby Since 1858
Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova in 2011. (NASA)

By    |   Monday, 03 Apr 2017 06:40 AM

The April Fool's Day Comet made its closest Earth flyby since it was discovered in 1858 and could be seen by Earthlings as it made its approach on Saturday.

That "close call" was still 13.2 million miles away, noted the website EarthSky.org, and sky watchers needed at least a small telescope or good binoculars to see the comet as it whizzed by.

The comet, officially named 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, was mistaken for different comets spotted in 1907 and 1951. After the 1951 sighting astronomers realized there was actually just one comet and named for its discoverers on those occasions – Horace Tuttle (1858), M. Giacobini (1907), and L'ubor Kresák (1951).

"The comet's perihelion point, which is that part of its orbit taking it closest to the sun, lies just outside Earth's orbit," said Joe Rao, Space.com's skywatching columnist. "This year, the perihelion passage occurs April 12, when the comet will be 97.1 million miles from the sun."

"But because the orbit of the comet nearly parallels the orbit of Earth at this point, there will be a six-day period – from March 29 through April 3 – when Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák will be very near to its closest point to Earth. The comet will, in fact, be closest to Earth on April Fools' Day; just about 13.2 million miles away."

The website Science Alert said that since the comet is not very big, it will be 50 times too faint to be seen with the naked eye.

"Good binoculars or small telescopes will be needed to pick it out, as well as a dark, clear, moonless night," said Science Alert writer Fiona MacDonald. "But, this year could provide an exceptional opportunity – scientists are predicting that the comet could undergo a dramatic outburst in brightness as it approaches the Sun."

USA Today said the National Weather Service is predicting clouds could obscure the sight for much of the Northeast, the central Plains and Pacific Northwest on Saturday night, but the rest of the country should be clear.

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The April Fool's Day Comet will make its closest Earth flyby since it was discovered in 1858 and can be seen by Earthlings as it makes it approach on Saturday.
april fools day, comet, earth, flyby
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2017-40-03
Monday, 03 Apr 2017 06:40 AM
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