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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2585

Double Comet Encounter: third closest fly-by in the history takes place today

Hemantha Abeywardena writes from London…

A pair of rare celestial event takes place on Monday and Tuesday with two comets flying past the Earth, while recording the third closest approach since records began.

Comet 252P/LINEAR comes within 3.3 million miles from the Earth on Monday. The second, Comet P/2016 BA14 will fly by on Tuesday in what astronomers universally classify, a very rare celestial phenomenon.

According to the faint photograph released by the NASA, the first comet appears to be emerald green with a length of about 750feet across – a relatively smaller space object. The second comet that is supposed to approach the Earth on Tuesday is about half the size of its ‘twin’. It is about to come within 2.2 million miles from the Earth.

The fascination of the astronomers about the two relatively small comets stems from the fact that it is the first such an encounter for nearly 250 years. Moreover, there will not be another of this kind for at least next 150 years.

There are only two other comets which are known to have come closer to Earth in recorded history: for instance, 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, was believed to have passed at a distance of 2.1 million miles on October 26, 1366; almost four centuries later, Lexell’s comet (D/1770 L1), which passed on July 1, 1770 and missed Earth by only 1.4 million miles, according to the existing historical records.

The distance involved is relatively small in the realm of astronomy. Therefore, physicists assure us that there will be no threats to our existence by the two celestial minnows in their extended, often-chaotic journey through the heavens.

double comet

In this context, those who want to see a correlation between unwanted set of terrestrial events here on the Earth and the appearance of twin comets within a space of a day must draw inspiration from elsewhere, perhaps, as it always happens with the appearance of comets, from the realm of superstition.

Since the two comets are really small, astronomers recommend the use of a pair of binoculars or a professional-calibre telescope to witness them. Those who live in the rural southern hemisphere, where light pollution remains low, however, will be able to watch it with unaided eye provided that there is no cloud cover.

The two comets in question may not fall into what exists in the popular imagination with the long tail directed away from the Sun. it, however, doesn’t dampen down our fascination with them, something that our forefathers have been doing since time immemorial for the reasons only known to them.

- Asian Tribune -

Double Comet Encounter: third closest fly-by in the history takes place today
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