There is a chance of two comets coming too close to the earth for comfort in the upcoming days.
Two comets are going to be passing rather close to our planet on March 21st and 22nd. One of them will be approaching at the closest margin that any comet has ever made in the history of recorded astronomy.
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The two comets are currently making their journey via nearly identical orbits around the sun. The discovery was made via the Discovery Channel Telescope. There are rumors that they may once have been a part of a larger heavenly body that later on was blown to smithereens.
Comets are not compact or very solid objects. They are delicate in their composition. In 1993, comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was observed and its fragments were linked with a flyby of Jupiter. Maybe there is a possibility that during a distant flyby of Jupiter, a chunk was broken off of 252P. This is now known as BA14.
"Comet P/2016 BA14 is possibly a fragment of 252P/LINEAR. The two could be related because their orbits are so remarkably similar," said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA's Center of NEO Studies (CNEOS) at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
"We know comets are relatively fragile things, as in 1993 when comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was discovered and its pieces linked to a flyby of Jupiter. Perhaps during a previous pass through the inner-solar system, or during a distant flyby of Jupiter, a chunk that we now know of as BA14 might have broken off of 252P."
Comet Panstarrs will brush the earth as close as 2.1 million miles away. This is about nine times the distance of the moon from the earth, according to Phys.org.
While it may seem like a fairly lengthy distance, in fact no comet has ventured so close to our home planet in the past 246 years. In the year 1770, Lexell’s Comet came within 1.4 million miles of the earth.
The people on earth were able to see that one coming. It was a bright occurrence in the night sky. In 1983, another comet passed just 2.9 million miles away from the planet.
However, despite the fact that this time around Panstarrs will be very close to the earth, it will not be visible to the unaided eye.
Telescopes will be required to view the bodies in the sky. Amateur skygazers may use home-made instruments of observation though.
Denis Denisenko, a Russian astronomer, was the first one to note down the approaching heavenly bodies. The moon will be up in the sky when the twin comets make their appearance.
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Furthermore, spectrographs of the comets will be taken by astronomers. This is all the better to see if they were once part of one heavenly body.