Sunday, May 08, 2011

Comet Elenin: Preview of a Coming Attraction

Comet Elenin, was first detected on Dec. 10, 2010 by Leonid Elenin, an observer in Lyubertsy, Russia, who made the discovery "remotely" using the ISON-NM observatory near Mayhill, New Mexico. At the time of the discovery, the comet was about 647 million kilometers from Earth. Over the past four-and-a-half months, the comet has - as comets do - closed the distance to Earth's vicinity as it makes its way closer to perihelion. As of May 4, Elenin's distance is about 274 million kilometers.

"That is what happens with these long-period comets that come in from way outside our planetary system," said Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. "They make these long, majestic, speedy arcs through our solar system, and sometimes they put on a great show. But not Elenin. Right now that comet looks kind of wimpy."

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