Looking for a fun way to pass the time on April 1st? How about watching a comet hurtle past Earth at mind-boggling speeds? No, this isn’t some nasty little April Fool’s trick to try and get you to spend hours staring up at the great void of space, it’s actually a very real opportunity for you to see a nice piece of celestial history.
Comet 41p makes its way through our neighborhood roughly once every five and a half years, but its latest visit will be a little more special than usual. Between now and April 13th, Comet 41p will be making its closest approach to Earth since it was discovered way back in 1857. Don’t worry, when we say close we’re not talking about life-threateningly close. 41p will actually be around 13 million miles away from Earth– far away enough to keep us safe, but close enough for us to get a good look at it.
Comet’s whizz past Earth all the time, but Comet 41p is known for its bursts of light that can, if you catch it just right, make for a spectacular show. 41p will actually be visible in the night sky right through to June, but between now and its perihelion (closest approach) on April 13th, all you’ll need to see it is a decent pair of binoculars or a telescope. Better still, during its April 13th perihelion 41p could put on a show that makes it bright enough to witness with the naked eye.
To watch the comet, you’re advised to head out and look to the North sky at around 9pm. Use the constellation map below to see where exactly you should be looking.
(The red dot indicates roughly where Comet 41p will appear in the Northern sky at approximately 9pm – Credit Starry Night)
Alternatively, if fresh air isn’t your jam, you can head on over to Slooh where they’ll be hosting a free stream of the event.
Top image credit: Comet 45p by Gerald Rhemann (Via NASA)