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Newfound Comet Lulin to Grace Night Skies

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Author Topic: Newfound Comet Lulin to Grace Night Skies  (Read 79 times)
Bianca
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« on: February 07, 2009, 11:57:28 am »









Unusual orbit



Brian Marsden of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has calculated that Comet Lulin passed through the perihelion point of its orbit (its closest approach to the sun) on Jan. 10, 113 million miles (182 million kilometers) from the sun.  However, while the comet is now receding from the sun, its distance from the Earth is decreasing, with a minimum of 38 million miles (61 million kilometers) on Feb. 24. 


For this reason, the comet should be at its brightest during the last week of February; then it will fade fast by mid-March.


The orbit of Comet Lulin is very nearly a parabola, according to Marsden.  It is also rather unusual since it is moving through space in a direction opposite to that of the planets at a very low inclination of just 1.6-degrees from the ecliptic.  As such, because it is moving opposite to the motion of our Earth, the comet will appear to track rather quickly against the background stars as one observes the object from one night to the next. 


In addition, over the next three weeks, the comet will appear to rise an average of about 20-minutes earlier each night. Right now, it is best seen in the predawn sky
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