April Fools comet to make its closest approach to Earth

Geronimo Vena
Aprile 2, 2017

A comet will make a closest pass to the Earth in more than a century on Saturday, according to U.S. space agency NASA.

The April Fool's Day comet will come as close as at a distance of about 13 million miles (0.14 astronomical units), or about 55 times the distance from Earth to the moon.

During the two weeks between March 29 and April 12, the April Fools' Day comet will pass through the major constellations of Draco and Ursa Major.

Whether a comet will put on a good show for observers is notoriously hard to predict, but 41P has a history of outbursts, and put on quite a display in 1973. Eastern Standard Time. Since it's too small to be seen with the naked eye (it's less than a mile in diameter), you'll need binoculars or a telescope and should point your lenses near the Big Dipper.

"These are comets that have been captured by the gravity of Jupiter, forcing them in an orbit that takes them between the sun and the gas giant".

41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák will be in the far northern sky, meaning stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere can see it for much of the night.

Comet 41P was first identified by astronomer Horace Tuttle, who is also credited with having discovered several other comets, including the iconic Swift-Tuttle. But the length of the comet's orbit was unknown at the time.

The comet was rediscovered in 1907 by Michael Giacobini but not immediately linked to the object seen in 1858.

The comet, officially named 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, was mistaken for different comets spotted in 1907 and 1951. "Amateur astronomers with small telescopes are already watching, and more people will see the comet in the coming days", EarthSky.org said. But don't despair because Slooh.com has our backs and it has pointed its telescopes toward comet 41P's trail. He'll also be looking for any signs of outbursts, which can offer a clue into how active the comet is.

"Comets are remnants from the early solar system", said DiSanti.

We have been treated to a heart-pounding celestial event recently when an asteroid flew really close to Earth in January, as well as several incredible astronomical sights in February.

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