On April 1, 2017, comet 41P will pass closer than it normally does to Earth, giving observers with binoculars or a telescope a special viewing opportunity. Comet hunters in the Northern Hemisphere should look for it near the constellations Draco and Ursa Major, which the Big Dipper is part of.
Whether a comet will put on a good show for observers is notoriously difficult to predict, but 41P has a history of outbursts, and put on quite a display in 1973. If the comet experiences similar outbursts this time, there’s a chance it could become bright enough to see with the naked eye. The comet is expected to reach perihelion, or its closest approach to the sun, on April 12.
A member of the Jupiter family of comets, 41P makes a trip around the sun every 5.4 years, coming relatively close to Earth on some of those trips. On this approach, the comet will pass our planet at a distance of about 13 million miles (0.14 astronomical units), or about 55 times the distance from Earth to the moon. This is the comet’s closest approach to Earth in more than 50 years and perhaps more than a century.
Read more: go.nasa.gov/2nLNzes
Photo caption: In this image taken March 24, 2017, comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák is shown moving through a field of faint galaxies in the bowl of the Big Dipper. On April 1, the comet will pass by Earth at a distance of about 13 million miles (0.14 astronomical units), or 55 times the distance from Earth to the moon; that is a much closer approach than usual for this Jupiter-family comet.
Photo credit: Image copyright Chris Schur©, used with permission
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