Comet To Pass Earth In Close Flyby Tomorrow Morning

If you missed today's comet flyby, don't fret — there will be a second one tomorrow morning, and it'll be even closer than today's (though there is no danger, NASA is sure to warn). This flyby will involve comet P/2016 BA14, and it'll pass by our planet at 2.2 million or so miles. While that's a great distance away, relatively speaking, it'll be the third closest comet flyby since 1983. Tomorrow's event follows this morning's flyby of comet 252P/LINEAR.

You'll have to get up somewhat early to witness the event, depending where you're located — the comet will flyby at about 7:30AM Pacific time/ 10:30AM EST. You won't be able to see it with the naked eye, though; says NASA, you're going to need a professional-grade and high-powered telescope to get a look. The requirement is due more to the comet's small size than the distance.

Tomorrow will be particularly notable, though, due to the rarity of the event. According to the space agency, the comet will be the closet to our planet for the next 150 years, at least, and gives researchers a brief "close up" opportunity to study the space rock.

Said NSA Center of NEO Studies manager Paul Chodas:

Comet P/2016 BA14 is possibly a fragment of 252P/LINEAR. The two could be related because their orbits are so remarkably similar. We know comets are relatively fragile things, as in 1993 when comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was discovered and its pieces linked to a flyby of Jupiter. Perhaps during a previous pass through the inner-solar system, or during a distant flyby of Jupiter, a chunk that we now know of as BA14 might have broken off of 252P.

SOURCE: NASA