Comet McNaught closest to Earth next week

If you look towards the northeastern sky before sunrise June 15, the recently discovered comet McNaught will be closest to Earth and visible to the naked eye.

Last Updated: Jun 11, 2010, 12:41 PM IST

New Delhi: If you look towards the northeastern sky before sunrise June 15, the recently discovered comet McNaught will be closest to Earth and visible to the naked eye.

The comet will appear as a dim and diffuse circular patch of light gliding through the constellation of Perseus in the northern sky.

It has been brightening rapidly as it approaches Earth for a 100-million-mile close encounter.

"Comet McNaught has a vivid green head and a long wispy tail that looks great through small telescopes. By the end of the month it could be visible to the naked eye perhaps as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper," said NS Raghunandan Kumar, general secretary, Planetary Society, India.

The Big Dipper is an alignment of seven stars known in ancient Indian astronomy as "Sapta Rishi" or "The Seven Great Sages".

According to scientists, this is the comet`s first visit to the inner solar system, so predictions of future brightness are necessarily uncertain.

Comet McNaught was discovered in September 2009 by Robert McNaught at Australia`s Siding Spring Observatory while conducting a search for potentially dangerous near-Earth objects.

IANS