April Fool's Day comet to pass closest to Earth in a century

Called the Green Comet, and designated 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, astronomers and space enthusiasts describe it as an impressive comet as it glows green and is nearly visible to the naked eye, though a backyard telescope would provide a distinctly clearer view.

According to Space.com, the comet will be at its closest position to Earth in its recorded history on April 1 when it will be 13.2 million miles away.

Pramod G Galgali, joint director, Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium, told Bangalore Mirror that Nandi Hills is the ideal location to view the comet as it is located north of Bengaluru and offers a clear night sky for viewing.

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.

However, another flare is unlikely, and the comet is about 50 times too tiresome for the naked eye for you to see it without a telescope.

"The comet's perihelion point, which is that part of its orbit taking it closest to the sun, lies just outside Earth's orbit", said Joe Rao, Space.com's skywatching columnist.

Stargazers will be able to spot the comet with small telescopes - and possibly even binoculars - from now until mid-April.

Those in the southern hemisphere or who are simply dealing with unfavorable conditions can see the comet on the live feed on Slooh, which will begin on Friday, March 31 at 8:30 p.m. EDT.

Comet 41P was first discovered by Horance Tuttle in 1858, then was rediscovered in 1907 by Michel Giacobini and again in 1951 by Lubor Kresák. But the length of the comet's orbit was unknown at the time.

The comet, which measures about 1.4 kilometers (0.87 mile), orbits around the Sun every 5.5 years.

A look at Comet 41P above the spiral galaxy Messier 108.

"Comets are remnants from the early solar system", said DiSanti. Those heading for a weekend getaway to other hills close to, and north of, the city like Avalabetta, Siddarbetta or Shivaganga would do well to carry a simple telescope if they are interested in seeing the comet.

  • Tracy Ferguson