A fantastic, one-of-a-kind celestial happening will occur on Tuesday, October 23rd as Comet 168P/Hergenrother and Comet C/2012 J1 (Catalina) will pass each other in space like ships in the night – but only during a very narrow viewing window. Slooh will provide live coverage of this spectacular event on Tuesday, October 23rd live on Slooh.com, free to the public starting at 2PM PDT / 5PM EDT / 21:00 UTC – accompanied by real-time discussions with Slooh President, Patrick Paolucci, Slooh Outreach Coordinator, Paul Cox, and Astronomy Magazine columnist, Bob Berman. Viewers can watch live on their PC or IOS/Android mobile device.
Slooh was first alerted to this unusual event by long-time Slooh member, Maynard Pittendreigh, as he and other members have been tracking both comets. The comets will appear close in the sky to fall within the reach of a single field-of-view of Slooh’s robotic telescopes. The pair will have an apparent separation of 43.5-arcminutes, as shown in this sky chart: http://goo.gl/hq8hK
Comet 168P/Hergenrother has been through a number of “outbursts” over the last 6-weeks. Each of these unexpected increases in brightness has been witnessed and actively imaged by Slooh members. The outbursts could be a sign that the comet nucleus is starting to break apart, which is why the comet is being observed every night by Slooh members.
Comet C/2012 J1 (Catalina) has been a superb contrast to Hergenrother; exhibiting a far more stable and expected increase in brightness as it orbits the Sun. Both comets have shown relatively bright comas and small tails.
Astronomy Magazine’s Bob Berman says, “It’s comet fiesta time for astronomers — and the public. Here Slooh will simultaneously watch two comets as they dramatically zoom in opposite directions in the same field of view! Next year at this time, Comet ISON should become a naked-eye wonder. And a few months after that, the Rosetta Mission has its rendezvous — and eventual landing on — yet another comet. Edmund Halley’s ghost is probably smiling.”
About Comet 168P/Hergenrother:
Comet 168P/Hergenrother was originally discovered by Carl W. Hergenrother on the 22nd November 1998. A periodic comet, it has an orbital period of 6.923 years. It reached perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) on the 1st October 2012.
About Comet C/2012 J1 (Catalina):
Comet C/2012 J1 (Catalina) was discovered by A. R. Gibbs of the “Catalina Sky Survey” on the 13th May 2012. The CSS is a prolific comet discoverer as it searches for Near-Earth Objects
as part of its government mandate. Classified as a “Hyperbolic Comet”, C/2012 J1 won’t
return to the inner solar system within the next 200-years – it is therefore known as a “non- periodic” or “long-period” comet. It will continue to brighten as it reaches perihelion on the 7th December 2012.
Sky Chart showing the comets’ positions during the live show: http://goo.gl/hq8hK
Animation of both comets: http://goo.gl/Ya44I