April Fools Day Comet to Wink at Earth in Closest Recorded Approach

No Joke April Fools Comet to Pass Closest to Earth Since Discovery

No Joke April Fools Comet to Pass Closest to Earth Since Discovery

On April 1, the comet will pass by Earth at a distance of about 13 million miles (0.14 astronomical units), or 55 times the distance from Earth to the moon; that is a much closer approach than usual for this Jupiter-family comet.

A comet whose identity took almost 100 years to pin down is making its closest approach to Earth today (April 1), just in time for April Fools' Day, but this is no cosmic prank. You can see a video of Comet 41P as seen by Slooh here.

The comet is expected to reach its closest approach or perihelion to the Sun, on April 12.

According to Space.com, the comet will be at its closest position to Earth in its recorded history on April 1 when it will be 13.2 million miles away.

Comet 41P was first discovered by Horance Tuttle in 1858, then was rediscovered in 1907 by Michel Giacobini and again in 1951 by Lubor Kresák. Weather permitting, the comet should be a good target for skywatchers with binoculars or a telescope. After the third "finding", astronomers determined the three comets were the same.

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41P is also a Jupiter comet, having been captured by the gas giant's gravity.

The comet, which is located in the far-northern sky, appears to have a light green tint, which made it a particularly popular attraction on St. Patrick's Day. As part of its' "night of firsts", scientists are predicting that the comet could undergo what they've described as a "dramatic outburst in brightness" as it approaches our Sun.

However, that possibility can be ruled out as Nandi Hills is closed to visitors from 6pm to 6 am, and according to the website spaceweather.com, the best time to watch the comet is the dark hours before sunrise - any time after 3 am and before the break of dawn.

Ade Ashford of Astronomy Now writes, 'Comet 41P is well worth a look with binoculars and telescopes using your lowest magnification eyepiece, as increased outgassing from its mile-wide icy nucleus can give rise to surges in brightness. Those heading for a weekend getaway to other hills close to, and north of, the city like Avalabetta, Siddarbetta or Shivaganga would do well to carry a simple telescope if they are interested in seeing the comet.