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Sky Patrol: Watch Out for April Fools' Day Comet This Weekend

Mar 31, 2017 10:33 AM EDT
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There's a famous comet making its way near the planet on April Fools' Day -- and no, this is not an elaborate prank.

According to a report from Space, the heavenly object known as Comet Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák or Comet T-G-K will be marking its closest approach to Earth since its discovery in 1858. The day its closest to Earth falls on Saturday, April 1, when it will only be about 13.2 million miles (21.2 million kilometers) away. Besides that day, there is a six-day stretch from March 29 to April 3 when the comet is expected to be very near its closest point to the planet.

People in the northern hemisphere have the chance to catch a glimpse of the comet through their telescope between dusk and dawn until mid-April, according to a report from Science Alert. Of course, April Fools' Day is the best day to take a peek as its closest to the Earth during that time. 

Those in the southern hemisphere or who are simply dealing with unfavorable conditions can see the comet on the live feed on Slooh, which will begin on Friday, March 31 at 8:30 p.m. EDT.  

While this small comet isn't particularly striking, those who enjoy heavenly shows might want to peer into their telescopes anyway because its rare that a comet ventures so close to Earth. Furthermore, there is a possibility that Comet T-G-K will suddenly burst in brightness. After all, it's happened before.

During Comet T-G-K's 1973 flyby past Earth, its brightness abruptly skyrocketed by about 10 magnitudes. The comet actually became 10,000 times brighter for a day or two, even becoming bright enough to be seen by the naked eye - albeit faintly.

After observing its approach to the sun in 1995, 2001 and 2006, scientists have observed that these sudden flares usually happen when the comet makes its closest approach to the sun.

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