Comet watchers waiting for show

Oct. 12, 2010 at 6:22 PM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 (UPI) -- A comet rapidly approaching Earth should put on a good light show when it nears our planet and the sun in late October, U.S. astronomers say.

But a NASA spacecraft will get the best view of all when it flies within 430 miles of the icy solar system wanderer on Nov. 4, ScienceNews.org reported.

Comet Hartley 2 orbits the sun ever 6.46 years and will come within 11 million miles of Earth, about 45 times as far away as the moon, on Oct. 20 when it will be visible to the naked eye in the Northern Hemisphere as a fuzzy object in the constellation Auriga.

Sky watchers in the Southern Hemisphere will get their best chance to glimpse it as it moves away from the sun in November.

Images of the comet taken by the Hubble Space Telescope in September reveal a solid core not quite a mile in diameter with a highly regular-shaped coma, the comet's tail of gas and dust.

NASA's EPOXI mission will capture close-up images during its November encounter with the comet.

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