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Comets: Small Bodies / Big Impacts
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5 Mar 2013 Comet PANSTARRS Brightening
Far beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, where the sun is a pinprick of light not much brighter than other stars, a vast swarm of icy bodies circles the solar system. Astronomers call it the "Oort Cloud," and it is the source of some of history's finest comets. One of them could be heading our way now. On Tuesday March 12, the comet known officially as comet C/2011 L4 (PANSTARRS), will stand almost directly above the western horizon, less than 5 degrees to the left of a very narrow crescent moon.
5 Mar 2013 Comet to Make Close Flyby of Red Planet in October 2014
Comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) will make a very close approach to Mars in October 2014. The latest trajectory of comet 2013 A1 (Siding Spring) generated by the Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., indicates the comet will pass within 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) of Mars and there is a strong possibility that it might pass much closer. The NEO Program Office's current estimate based on observations through March 1, 2013, has it passing about 31,000 miles (50,000 kilometers) from the Red Planet's surface. That distance is about two-and-a-half times that of the orbit of outermost moon, Deimos.
6 Feb 2013 A Possible Naked-eye Comet in March
Far beyond the orbits of Neptune and Pluto, where the sun is a pinprick of light not much brighter than other stars, a vast swarm of icy bodies circles the solar system. Astronomers call it the "Oort Cloud," and it is the source of some of history's finest comets. One of them could be heading our way now. In early March, the comet will pass about 100 million miles from Earth as it briefly dips inside the orbit of Mercury. Most experts expect it to become a naked-eye object about as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper.
5 Feb 2013 NASA's Deep Impact Spacecraft Eyes Comet ISON
NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft has acquired its first images of comet C/2012 S1 (ISON). The images were taken by the spacecraft's Medium-Resolution Imager over a 36-hour period on Jan. 17 and 18, 2013, from a distance of 493 million miles (793 million kilometers). Many scientists anticipate a bright future for comet ISON; the spaceborne conglomeration of dust and ice may put on quite a show as it passes through the inner solar system this fall.
10 Jan 2013 Three Views of Comet C/2012 K5 (LINEAR)
While we're all waiting with bated breath to see what Comet ISON decides to do in 2013, the Solar System is continuing to throw ice balls our way. The latest one keeping astronomers busy is Comet C/2012 K5 (LINEAR), which has been visible in the sky for the last couple of weeks, and should keep us entertained for a few more.  In late December, the comet was a fairly compact iceball, but it flared up nicely in early January, producing a sizable tail, well worth searching for with a set of binoculars or small telescope.
7 Jan 2013 Alien Comets Swarm Around Other Stars
New observations of six stars show they too have comets orbiting them, which indicates stars with comets may be as common as stars with planets...and those number in the hundreds of billions!
11 Dec 2012 A New Meteor Shower in December?
If you're outdoors after sunset this week, be alert for meteors. Not only is the Geminid meteor shower active as Earth passes through a stream of debris from "rock comet" 3200 Phaethon, but also, say forecasters, a new meteor shower could make an appearance.  "The source of the new shower is Comet Wirtanen," says Bill Cooke of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "Dust from this comet hitting Earth's atmosphere could produce as many as 30 meteors per hour."
16 Nov 2012 How to Watch the Leonid Meteor Shower This Weekend
From Friday, November 16 to Sunday, November 18 the Leonid meteor shower will be at its peak, with 20 to 30 or so shooting stars visible per hour.  If you've ever wanted to sit outside and soak up a meteor shower, this is your big chance: the Moon is new, so it won't interfere at all with the shower.
2 Nov 2012 Scientists Monitor Comet Breakup
The Hergenrother comet is currently traversing the inner-solar system. Amateur and professional astronomers alike have been following the icy-dirt ball over the past several weeks as it has been generating a series of impressive outbursts of cometary-dust material. Now comes word that the comet's nucleus is splitting apart.
12 Oct 2012 The Orionid Meteor Shower
Every year in mid-to-late October, Earth passes through a stream of dusty debris from Comet Halley, and the pre-dawn sky lights up with a pretty display of shooting stars. "We expect to see about 25 meteors per hour when the shower peaks on Sunday morning, Oct 21st," says Bill Cooke, the head of NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office. "With no Moon to spoil the show, observing conditions should be ideal."
25 Sep 2012 Big Sun-Diving Comet Discovered
Currently located beyond the orbit of Jupiter, Comet C/2012 S1 (ISON) is heading for a very close encounter with the sun next year. In Nov. 2013, it will pass less than 0.012 AU (1.8 million km) from the solar surface. The fierce heating it experiences then could turn the comet into a bright naked-eye object.
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Last Updated: 16 Apr 2014