21 March 2016

A Comet Fly-By on March 22 is going to be a close one

Finding comet P/2016 BA14
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.

More information from Sky & Telescope and from Earth Sky.

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