Melbourne 10/3/2010 8:11:38 AM
News / Nature

Comet to sweep close to Earth in October 2010

Hartley-2 caught by Italian comet hunter

 Since its discovery by the 1.2-meter U.K. Schmidt telescope atop Siding Springs, Australia in 1986, Comet103P/Hartley 2 has danced a few times past Jupiter and had its orbit effected enough to bring it closer to Earth this month than most comets have for the past few centuries.

Its due to pass us by during October at a distance of only 0.12au, 11 million miles or18 million Kms during the night of the 20th October. It is predicted to reach  magnitude 5 or 6 during October.

Hartley 2 also has a tiny companion joining it this time round. The EPOXI spacecraft is racing towards it for a close encounter with its nucleus on Nov 4th.

Hartley 2 within an extended green coma is seen here passing the Pacman Nebula in this stunning animation created by Italian comet chaser extraordinare Rolando Ligustin with the Global-Rent-A-Scope  G14 Wide field Telescope during its dash through the constellation Cassiopeia.