Comet Hartley 2 close to Earth

October 20, 2010 | By | Add a Comment
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You may have seen the odd snippet of information in the Australian media about Comet Hartley being close to Earth. In spite of being relatively close on an astronomical scale at a mere 17.7 million kilometers , it isn’t particularly outstanding given its small size. It is also only visible low on the horizon as seen from our location in the Southern hemisphere, meaning that something called ‘atmospheric extinction‘ comes into play. There are plenty of pictures on the WWW which you can look at. The US based Sky & Telescope magazine website is one starting point. They also have a handy finder chart if you are keen enough to get up and look for the comet (just before dawn above the Northern horizon).

Caption: This EPOXI mission image of comet 103P/Hartley 2 was taken 34 days from Encounter (E-34d) using the Medium Resolution Instrument (MRI) and a clear filter. Science Team member Dr. Dennis Wellnitz combined three successive one-minute exposures to make this single image. The mid-exposure time was 2010/10/01 16:22:51 UTC. The comet was 1.12 AU from the Sun and 0.23 AU (35 million km) from the spacecraft. More images at http://epoxi.umd.edu/3gallery/20101001_103P.shtml

While getting up in the early morning to ‘maybe’ see a faint fuzzy blob may not excite you, I am getting excited at the prospect of the closeup views of the comet that will be shortly beamed back to Earth by NASA’s EPOXI mission. At this stage, the flyby of Comet Hartley 2 is expected to occur on 5 November 2010 at 12.02 am Australian Eastern Standard Time (add one hour if you live in a state or territory that follows daylight savings time). My previous post on the flyby can be found here.

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