Elusive green comet Hartley 2 will be visible today

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

WASHINGTON - Hartley 2, the comet that was discovered in 1986 by Australian astronomer Malcolm Hartley, has been shrouded in mystery for a very long time, but today it will make its closest pass, offering prime viewing via binoculars and telescopes.

Hartley 2 will be passing the brilliant star Capella in the constellation Auriga, making the comet easier to track down. Dark skies away from cities will offer the best views, and binoculars or small telescopes will heighten the details.

“I would recommend binoculars as the best way for the beginner to observe comet Hartley 2,” National Geographic News quoted Anthony Cook, an astronomer at the Griffith Observatory in California, as saying.

“But through a telescope, the comet may fill the field of view, with more structure in the bright center, and a faint tail could become observable,” he added.

On October 20 the comet will pass 11 million miles (17.7 million kilometers) from our planet-just 45 times the distance between Earth and the moon.

In the infrared, the comet’s crumb-like tail is clearly visible as a fuzzy streak to the right of Hartley 2. More than five months before the comet’s closet approach to the sun, solar radiation had already begun to vaporize the icy surface of the nucleus, creating the dusty tail, which stretches for about 1.1 million miles (1.7 million kilometers). (ANI)

Filed under: Science and Technology

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