Monday, March 21, 2016

O/T Space Science Follow-Up: Comet Is. . . Green. And One Half Of A Split Pair, To Boot!

I'll update this item here, with an actual photo of the first half, from an Australian telescope, taken on March 17, 2016. Very impressive -- and in only a few hours, now. . . .

If you happen to have clear skies, in the early evening tomorrow, Tuesday, March 22, 2016 -- look south toward the tail of Scorpio (about in the middle of the Milky Way) at a little before 8 PM Central -- before the moon fully rises, you might just see the larger comet. And you may notice that it is. . . like its now-separated partner. . . glowing green. In addition, it may be at least partially-visible until April 2 or so. Now you know.

Of course, this half of the comet may not brighten enough for you to see it with the naked eye -- but the last time a comet came this close to Earth, we weren't a nation yet -- the Boston Massacre had just occurred, and it would be five years yet, before Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech -- from the pulpit, in St. John's Episcopal Church, in Richmond, Virginia. That's a long, long while ago, now.

[Interestingly, just about 20 years ago -- or on March 22, 1997 -- Comet Hale-Bopp, likely the most widely viewed comet of the 20th Century, made its closest approach to Earth. It was visible for months, however. But this would be synchronicity with March 22, and comet-alia, just the same.]

So, once again, the celestial tail of Scorpio, and March 22 -- connected (even if invisibly, this time around). Fitting. Here, from Sky & Telescope, a bit:

. . . .You'd have to go back 246 years to find a comet that passed closer to Earth than Comet PanSTARRS (P/2016 BA14) will on March 22nd. Predicted to come within about nine lunar distances (2.1 million miles or 3.4 million kilometers) of Earth around 16:00 UT on that day, P/2016 BA14 will soon claim the distinction of second closest comet ever recorded. . . .

We will be savoring that moment for certain -- whether it is visible -- or not so -- for a whole host of reasons. . . mesmerized by unwasted grace, to be sure. . . . And as I say, fittingly so -- 'twas all not so long ago, from this celestial perspective.

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