April Fools' Comet Coming Close To Earth April 1

On Saturday (1 April), stargazers from around the world will have the unique opportunity to watch the close approach of comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák - the April Fool's Day Comet.

It's perfectly safe, of course, whizzing past at 13.2 million miles away - a little over a tenth of the distance between Earth and the Sun.

People in the northern hemisphere have the chance to catch a glimpse of the comet through their telescope between dusk and dawn until mid-April, according to a report from Science Alert.

It will be clearly visible over most of the United States, although clouds may obscure it in the Northeast, Pacific Northwest and parts of the Midwest and Southwest.

Complicating matters for skywatchers, the comet, measuring less than a mile in diameter, can not be seen with naked eye, so a telescope or binoculars will be needed.

"Usually it appears in the night sky as a diffuse blob of light", ScienceAlert wrote on its website.

Comets are named for their discoverers.

Telescope service Slooh will track the comet live on April 1 through telescopes located in the Canary Islands. This one carries all three names of the astronomers who separately found it in 1858, 1907 and 1951, EarthSky said.

Scientists aren't entirely sure why the comet behaves this way as it comes closer to the Sun; it was first recorded as displaying that behaviour in 1973, since then, it has repeated that behaviour in 1995, 2001 and 2006.

Just face the north and aim the telescope slightly above the North Star (also called Polaris or Pole Star) just over the horizon, and you will see a green-glowing fuzz ball - that's the Green Comet, 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, discovered on May 3, 1858 by Horace Parnell Tuttle, L'uber Kresak and Michel Giacobini.

  • Carolyn Briggs