Comets Passing By Each Other Tuesday Night
October 22, 2012

Slooh To Broadcast Comets Passing In The Night

Lee Rannals for - Your Universe Online

On Tuesday night, there will be no football, and the World Series will be a day away, but there will be another spectacle you can watch. said it will be broadcasting a one-of-a-kind celestial event on Tuesday night, as Comet 168P/Hergenrother and Comet C/2012 J1 (Catalina) pass each other in space.

Slooh will begin providing live coverage of this event starting at 5:00 p.m. Eastern, accompanied by real-time discussions with Slooh President, Patrick Paolucci, Slooh Outreach Coordinator, Paul Cox, and Astronomy Magazine columnist, Bob Berman.

The organization said it was first alerted of this unusual event by Maynard Pittendreigh. The comets will appear close in the sky to fall within the reach of a single field-of-view of Slooh's robotic telescopes, giving viewers a prime vantage point to watch the event.

Comet 168P/Hergenrother has seen a few "outbursts" over the past six weeks, each of which has been witnessed and actively imaged by Slooh members.

The outbursts could be a sign that the comet's nucleus is beginning to break apart, which is why it is being observed every night.

Slooh said Comet C/2012 J1 (Catalina) has been exhibiting a far more stable and expected increase in brightness as it orbits the Sun. Both have shown relatively bright comas and small tails.

"It's comet fiesta time for astronomers -- and the public. Here Slooh will simultaneously watch two comets as they dramatically zoom in opposite directions in the same field of view! Next year at this time, Comet ISON should become a naked-eye wonder," Berman said in the press release. "And a few months after that, the Rosetta Mission has its rendezvous -- and eventual landing on -- yet another comet. Edmund Halley's ghost is probably smiling."

Comet 168P/Hergenrother was first discovered by Carl W. Hergenrother back in November 1998.  It has an orbital period of 6.923 years, and it reached its closest approach to the Sun back on October 1.

Comet C/2012 J1 (Catalina)was discovered by A. R. Gibbs of the "Catalina Sky Survey" on the May 13, 2012. This comet is classified as a "Hyperbolic Comet" and won't return to the inner solar system within the next 200-years.