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Space.com - Broken Comet On Its Way
In May 2006 the fragments are going to fly past Earth closer than any comet has come in almost eighty years.
"This is a rare opportunity to watch a comet in its death throes—from very close range," says Don Yeomans, head of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL.
The flyby is a big deal. "The Hubble Space Telescope will be watching," says Yeomans. "Also, the giant Arecibo radar in Puerto Rico will 'ping' the fragments to determine their shape and spin."
Even backyard astronomers will be able to take pictures as the mini-comets file through the constellations Cygnus and Pegasus on May 12, 13 and 14. Ironically, despite being so close, these comets will not be very bright. The largest fragments are expected to glow like 3rd or 4th magnitude stars, which are only dimly visible to the unaided eye.
Mark your calendar: On May 8th at approximately 0300 UT (11 pm EDT on May 7th), the biggest piece of dying comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 will pass very close to--and possibly right in front of--the Ring Nebula in Lyra. The view through backyard telescopes should be wonderful.
Originally posted by cmdrkeenkid
Well, hopefully we'll get a grand meteor shower out of it!
Last time a comet broke up this near to Earth there was a meteor shower that had a rate of about 3000 to 15000 per hour. So keep your fingers crossed!
Originally posted by sardion2000
When was the last time btw?
One outstanding example is comet Biela, which was seen to split in 1846, and had completely broken apart by 1872," he says. "At least three very intense meteor showers (3000-15000 meteors per hour) were produced by this dying comet in 1872, 1885 and 1892."