Two comets will safely pass by Earth at relatively close distances starting coming Monday, March 21, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA) has announced.
One of the two comets will be emerald-green in Hue. It will pass by our planet on Monday. A day later, a kissing cousin of the first comet will pass safely closer to our planet than any other comet did in as many as 250 years.
Stargazers will be able to witness the first comet with binoculars in the southern hemisphere if they are away from the city’s dazzling lights. Scientists have, however, positioned big telescopes like the Hubble Space Telescope to watch and record the passing by comets.
The American space agency said in a statement, “While both comets will safely fly past at relatively close distances, anyone hoping to see them will need powerful, professional-grade telescopes, due to their relatively small size.”
The time of closest approach for comet the first comet, dubbed 252P/LINEAR, on 21st of March will be 7:14 a.m. CDT; while the second comet called P/2016 BA14 will be closest to the planet at around 7:30 a.m. CDT on the 22nd of March.
NASA scientists will use the opportunity to examine the comets’ possible twin nature. Michael Kelley, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, called the approaching of the two comets a “fantastic opportunity” for professionals because they would be able to learn more about comets.
According to a report in USA Today by Traci Watson, “The first and bigger of the two comets will be visible Monday to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere, as long as city lights are far away. Stargazers in the United States will probably need only binoculars to see the bigger comet in late March. Scientists, however, are bringing out the big guns. The Hubble Space Telescope, the powerful ground-based Gemini telescopes and others will be trained on the celestial visitors, which will provide an extraordinary close-up of objects usually glimpsed only at a distance.”
“This is one for the record books,” says Michael Kelley of the University of Maryland, who’s never heard of two comets approaching close to Earth a day apart. “It’s a fantastic opportunity for professionals to learn more about comets, and if you have a chance to try to find them … it’s a fantastic chance to see part of history as it happens.”
In a statement provided to SkyAndTelescope News, “Although the full Moon will make a mess of things at that time, we get a break by the 24th when the Moon rises at twilight’s end, allowing for a brief window of darkness. At that time, the comet will be beautifully placed, flying across Ursa Major at the rate of 13° per day or more than 1/2° per hour. Between March 21st and 22nd, it covers an incredible 20° in 24 hours, fast enough to detect motion in less than a minute through a telescope. Provided it brightens as hoped, that is.”
We’ll soon know much more about these two unequal popsicle halves. Michael Kelley has secured time on the Hubble Space Telescope for a closer look at 252P. Spectra should help astronomers determine if the comets’ compositions are similar enough to prove they’re related. Radar observations are planned for BA14 using the Green Bank and NASA’s Deep Space Network’s DSS-13 dishes to determine the shape and size of its nucleus and other characteristics.
NorthBridgetimes News report added, “The first one among the duo will pass carefully on March 21, 2016. The second comet will come close to Earth than any comet in the past 250 years. Experts from NASA believes that these comets will not create any drastic impacts on Earth. In typical cases, Comets will not affect Earth, and it will provide scientists a golden chance to study about these extraterrestrial objects. Due to their small size, people will not be able to see them through their naked ones. If you want to watch, you will need a powerful, professional grade telescope.”
If speculations become correct, the second comet Comet P/2016 BA14 will have a close shave with Earth within 2.1 million away on Tuesday, March 22, 2016, at 10:30 AM. NASA officials confirmed that this will be third closest comet flyby since 1770. In 1983, another comet had also passed near to earth in a similar distance.