April Fools' Comet Passes by Earth, Took Nearly a Century to Identify

No Joke April Fools Comet to Pass Closest to Earth Since Discovery

The comet will miss Earth by about 13.2 million miles at its closest approach - a hair's breadth by astronomical standards but nowhere close to a collision.

But because the orbit of the comet almost 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. If clouds obscure your view, visit the astronomy website Slooh.com, which will be tracking the comet live from the Canary Islands. So that will make the comet an easy target from dusk through dawn through mid-April.

Just face the north and aim the telescope slightly above the North Star (also called Polaris or Pole Star) just over the horizon, and you will see a green-glowing fuzz ball - that's the Green Comet, 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, discovered on May 3, 1858 by Horace Parnell Tuttle, L'uber Kresak and Michel Giacobini. The perihelion point (the part of the orbit that is nearest the sun) of the comet is just outside of the Earth's orbit, and the perihelion passage won't take place until April 12.

According to NASA, comet 41P's 2017 approach will be the closest to Earth recorded in a century and its brightness would most likely allow it to be visible to the naked eye - at least to the people in the Northern Hemisphere. After the third "finding", astronomers determined the three comets were the same.

Comet 41P poses above and to the left of spiral galaxy Messier 108.

"Each comet that comes into the neighborhood of Earth gives us a chance to add to our understanding of the events that led to the formation of our own planet". It revolves around the Sun every 5.4 years, hence coming relatively close to the Earth on some of those trips.

"This is the comet's closest approach to Earth in more than 50 years and perhaps more than a century", NASA said.

How and where to watch the April Fool's Day comet?

The comet is not particularly large - less than a mile in diameter - and can't be seen with the naked eye, reports Science Alert.



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