Boyne City astronomer Rod Cortright on Earth’s close encounter with comets

‘LOOK UP! WHAT’S IN THE NIGHT SKY?’ GUEST COLUMNIST ROD CORTRIGHT

On March 21 and 22, Earth has a close encounter with two comets.

The line in the photo shows the movement of Comet 2016 BA14 over a period of five minutes.

It was approximately three million miles from Earth at the time.

 

The image is quite faint since it the comet is only 3,000 feet in diameter which is at the limits of the photographic equipment’s capabilities.

It passed quite close to Earth about noon our time on March 22, coming within about 9 lunar distances or 2.2 million miles.

Very close for a comet in fact it is the third-closest known comet to pass our planet in recorded history and the closest comet in 246 years!

It is theorized that it is a fragment of Comet 252P/Linear which passed within 3.3 million miles of Earth the day before.

Both comets are on almost the exact same trajectory.

The closest comet encounter in recorded history was Lexell’s Comet which passed within 1.4 million miles of earth on July 1, 1777. It was a much larger body.

It was described as having a coma approximately four times the diameter of a full moon.

The second closest comet passing Earth was Comet Tempel–Tuttle, coming within 2.1 million miles of earth in on October 26, 1366. Tempel- Tuttle is the parent body of the Leonid meteor showers.

The Northern Michigan Astronomy Club is sponsoring an open house at the Wildwood Observatory, located one mile north of Boyne City.

The program includes a tour of the observatory and a presentation by Mary Stewart Adams, Director of the Headlands International Dark Sky Park.

Weather permitting, telescopes will be set up for night sky observing following the program.

The Wildwood Observatory located at 01825 Wildwood Heights Road just north of Boyne City, is a small private observatory built by Rod and Michelle Cortright.

It is used for both observing and astrophotography.

For directions please contact Rod Cortright a cortrigh@msu.edu or call 231-675-0393.

All are welcome to join us for an interesting evening of astronomy.


Rod Cortright, Astrophotographer and Vice President of the Northern Michigan Astronomy Club

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