The Morning Show at KFOG wanted the lowdown on the comet fly-bys, so we had a call and talked about the close approach, whether this was an 'extinction level' event, and whether you can see this wonder of the night. Listen here.
Comet P/2016 BA14 will pass Earth at a near record-setting close distance on March 22. It will pass within 2.2 million miles (about 9 lunar distances), a reasonably wide miss but nonetheless a close shave in the grand scheme of cometary fly-bys. And at its estimated size of 1500 feet, it is plenty large to cause catastrophic damage to Earth. Luckily we have no risk and no danger, and we also have a great network of telescopes watching for such objects. We can spot them quite far in advance.
Comet P/2016 BA14 is not alone. There is a companion called 252P/Linear with it that will also pass close to Earth but will not be a threat. The two comets are likely from the same origin but split apart.
You'll need a telescope to see either one, but with a full Moon this week, it will take some work. The image shows where to look on March 21st at closest approach.
Jupiter recently reached opposition, appearing at its brightest and traversing the night sky from sunset to sunrise. It's the most obvious beacon in the night sky, far outshining everything around it. That is, except for the Moon which of course is the brightest object in the night sky. This week as the Moon moves through its full phase, it has a close encounter with Jupiter on the evening of March 21.
By the way, since the Moon is full this week (on Wednesday March 23rd) just after the Spring Equinox, it will rise due East and set due West on that day, roughly mirroring the position of the Sun six months hence, on the Fall Equinox.
In 2005 I began writing a column for the San Francisco Waldorf School newsletter called "The Urban Astronomer." I started this blog in 2007 as a place to archive my articles and to offer additional insights on the night sky - even if you live in a big city. In 2008 I became an occasional guest on the KFOG Morning Show, and more recently on KALW and KGO. Archived shows are posted on the blog.