Two comets will fly by Earth over the next two days. One of them will be the third closest flyby in recorded history.
Comet 252P/LINEAR was discovered by M.I.T.’s LINEAR survey roughly 16 years ago. It’s about 230 meters long and is currently passing by our planet (at the time of this article) at a distance of over 5.2 million kilometers (or 3.3 millions miles).
The second comet is P/2016 BA14, which was discovered only this year by the University of Hawaii’s PanSTARRS telescope on the island of Maui. This comet was initially thought to be an asteroid, but follow-up observations revealed its true nature. On march 22, P/2016 BA14 will have it’s closest approach to Earth at 2:30pm GMT (10:30 a.m. EST) at a distance of 3.5 million kilometers (2.2 million miles). This is the closest comet approach to Earth since 1770 when Lexell’s Comet passed by the planet at 2.2 million kilometers (1.4 million miles).
The comets have similar orbital paths, and some scientists speculate that this may all be part of one comet. “Perhaps during a previous pass through the inner Solar System, or during a distant flyby of Jupiter, a chunk that we now know of as BA14 might have broken off 252P”, says Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
To view either of these comets you may need a pretty good telescope. At the distance of it’s closest pass, BA14 will be roughly nine times the distance of the Earth to the Moon.
252P on the other hand is expected to be over 100 times brighter than its closer counter-part. Some believe it will even be fully visible to the naked eye.
Get our Tips and Tricks to your Inbox