‘Green Comet’ to streak past Earth Tuesday

February 21st, 2009 - 6:03 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Feb 21 (IANS) Space scientists are keeping a close vigil on Comet Lulin, also known as the ‘Green Comet’, which will streak past the Earth Tuesday.
Comet Lulin will pass within 38 million miles - 160 times farther than the moon - of the Earth and is expected to be visible to the naked eye.

Discovered only a year ago, the comet gains its green colour from poisonous cyanogen and diatomic carbon gases in its atmosphere.

This will be the comet’s first visit to the inner solar system of which the Earth is a part and will enable the team from the University of Leicester (U-L) to gain valuable insights into the comet.

They are using NASA’s Swift satellite to monitor Comet Lulin as it closes on the Earth. The spacecraft has recorded simultaneous ultraviolet and X-ray images of the comet.

“We alerted the Swift team that the comet might be visible,” said Andrew Read of the U-L. “And they quickly responded to take images using both the X-ray and ultraviolet/optical telescopes on board.”

“Swift is the ideal spacecraft with which to observe this comet,” said Jenny Carter, a scientist working with Read at the U-L.

Julian Osborne, leader of the Swift project at Leicester, said: “The wonderful ease of scheduling of Swift and its joint UV and X-ray capability make Swift the observatory of choice for observations like these.”

U-L has played a major role in developing Swift’s x-ray telescope and is an important centre for the study of high-energy emission from objects within our solar system, a university release said.

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