March Comet Closeups: Comets 252P/LINEAR 12 & Pan-STAARS

Comet Pan-Starrs ... iridium flares

Comet Pan-Starrs … iridium flares, photo by Ken Scott

EarthSky says that later this month we’ll see a pair of comets, including the closet comet approach in two-and-a-half centuries:

A pair of comets showing very similar orbits are approaching Earth, and astronomers will use radio-telescopes to obtain radar images, while advanced amateurs may capture images of each of the twin comets. While both will pass at a safe distance, one of them will have a record-breakingly close flyby. Comet s was already known to be passing by Earth on March 21, 2016 at a distance of 3,290,000 miles (5.3 million km). This is about 14 times the Earth-Moon distance, and, taken by itself, sets no record.

Comet P/2016 BA14 (Pan-STARRS) will safely pass Earth on March 22,2016, passing even closer than comet 252P. Comet P/2016 BA14 flyby will be at just 2,199,933 miles (3.5 million km) or about 9 lunar distances, which is very close for a comet. In fact, this comet – P/2016 BA14 – will set a record as the third-closest known comet to pass our planet in recorded history.

…First place goes to Comet D/1770 L1 (Lexell). Comet Lexell went at just 5.9 lunar distances on July, 1770. That was about 1,410,100 miles (2.3 million km), so close that Charles Messier noted the comet’s coma looked about the size of four times the apparent size of a full moon.

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Ken took these stitched photos of Comet Pan-STAARS along with two Iridium satellite flares back in April of 2013. View his photo bigger, see more in his Skies Above slideshow and definitely follow him at Ken Scott Photography on Facebook for photos as these comets make their passes.


One thought on “March Comet Closeups: Comets 252P/LINEAR 12 & Pan-STAARS

  1. I remember being able to see the tail of Halley’s comet when it went by in 1985 or 1986. I was thrilled. It looked as if it were standing still, then. Hopefully, I’ll be able to glimpse the comet coming on 3-2-16. Thanks for that information.


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