WHAT? Massive comet 168P/Hergenrother set to fly past Earth this week, to be visible to naked eye

New Delhi, News Nation Bureau | Updated : 20 August 2019, 12:08 AM
Representative image
Representative image

Are you a fan of stargazing? If yes, then Thursday, August 22, is the day. A huge comet called Comet 168P/Hergenrother is expected to reach its brightest point as it flies past the Earth. Now what? Looking for a telescope? Well, this celestial event will be visible to the naked eye and does not need any expensive equipment to watch it.

168P/Hergenrother is currently in the constellation of Perseus. It is located 170,558,355 kilometers away from the Earth. It is considered to rise and set at times at which its upper limb touches the horizon, as atmospheric refraction comes into play, Daily Express reported.

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According to the report. this simplified sky map shows where Comet 168P/Hergenrother is right now in the sky with respect to the brightest stars and constellations.

An Astronomical Unit (AU) is the average distance between Earth and the Sun, approximately 93 million miles (150 million km).

The comet is forecast to be the most visible at 9.15pm BST and will vanish at around 4.25am on Friday morning.

What is Comet 168P/Hergenrother?

Comet 168P/Hergenrother was first discovered in 1998. NASA said: “Comets are cosmic snowballs of frozen gases, rock and dust that orbit the Sun.

“When frozen, they are the size of a small town. When a comet's orbit brings it close to the Sun, it heats up and spews dust and gases into a giant glowing head larger than most planets.

“The dust and gases form a tail that stretches away from the Sun for millions of miles.”

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The dust and gases form a “tail” stretching millions of miles. There are likely billions of comets orbiting our Sun in the Kuiper Belt and even more distant Oort Cloud, but NASA is currently keeping track of 3,586.

Rachel Stevenson, a post-doctoral fellow working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, has revealed Comet 168P-Hergenrother is splitting apart.

She said: ”Using the Gemini North Telescope on top of Mauna Kea, Hawaii, we have resolved that the nucleus of the comet has separated into at least four distinct pieces resulting in a large increase in dust material in its coma.”

First Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2019 12:08 AM

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