Two comets are currently approaching our planet and will pass by us extremely close next week. Astronomers expect the phenomenon with anticipation since the comets might reveal further details about their origin.
The two celestial bodies will pass by Earth one after the other, at very similar distances. The first one, named 252P/LINEAR will fly at a distance of 3.3 million miles on Monday at exactly 8:14 a.m. It is ranked as the fifth on the list of comets that came as close to our planet as possible. The second one, P/2016 BA14 will approach at about 2.1 million miles on Tuesday, at 10:30 a.m, and is set to become the second on the list.
NASA first believed that BA14 was an asteroid. However, astronomer Michael S.P. Kelley from the University of Maryland was the one to contest that fact and declare that the celestial body looked more like a comet. Since the discovery, scientists have been arguing whether there is a connection between the two comets.
Kelley believes there is no such thing as coincidence and plans to observe the phenomenon through the Hubble Space Telescope for nine whole hours. Sometimes called the “frozen leftovers of the early solar system”, the comets could have been one before splitting up. This process happens quite frequently in space and seems to be the explanation for the link between the two celestial bodies.
252P was first discovered back in the year 2000 by MIT astronomers while BA14 was only noticed this year by the Pan-STARRS observatory in Hawaii. Center for Near-Earth Objects manager Paul Chodas from NASA has declared that the process has been previously verified and observed. For instance, in 1993, Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet was linked to the flyby of Jupiter. Since comets are quite fragile, it would not be surprising to find out that BA14 is actually a chunk of 252P that has fallen and now has a life of its own.
According to Chodas, the two celestial bodies pose no threat whatsoever to our planet. They will not bring the End, but they will provide astronomers with a unique view and give them the opportunity to continue their studies.
After the two comets pass over the Southern Hemisphere of our planet, the scientists might be able to determine the connection between them. They are expected to be dim since they only have a diameter of a couple of hundred feet, but with an advanced telescope, the astronomers can take a closer look.
Image Source: Slate