Comet Lulin Illuminates From 38 Million Miles Away

Comet Lulin Illuminates From 38 Million Miles Away

Comet Lulin is dropping about 800 gallons of water per second. Astronomers can watch the illumination display as it passes within 38 million miles from Earth.

Comet Lulin will pass Earth on Monday night and will be visible for people living in the southeast portion of the United States. While the comet can be seen on Monday night, it makes its closest approach on Tuesday night, February 24. NASA suggests the comet will appear about 45 degrees above the horizon at around 11 pm eastern.

Astronomers in Florida and Texas are bracing to get their first look at the comet as it comes within 38 million miles of Earth. The green color of Comet Lulin is produced by gases when illuminated by the sun. This produces the glowing effect in space as it travels.

Comet Lulin attracts thousands of amateur astroners in the southeast.

One Astronomer in Florida is hoping to video record the eventful night. David Myers, who spend nearly $2,000 on a telescope and video equipment, works for Harris Corp during the day in Palm Bay, Florida. At night, he tracks the stars and reads about space exploration on the NASA Web site. He is one of thousands of hobby astronomers who will monitor Comet Lulin throughout the evening.

“I bought my first telescope when I was 13-years-old,” Myers said. “I’ve been addicted to the stars ever since.”

The astronomer hopes to record a video of the comet and says, “This only happens once in a lifetime. I want to preserve this moment for my grandchildren and for them to treasure it for their children,” Myers said. The amateur astronomer plans to submit his work to the YouTube video sharing site.

Lulin contains gases which illuminates as it approaches the sun.

Comet Lulin was first discovered by a Chinese teenager in 2007. It has a long green trail because it contains diatomic carbon and cyanogen gases which give it a glowing effect. As the comet travels, it is dropping about 800 gallons of water per second.

Lulin got its name from the Lulin Observatory in Taiwan. It will mark its first visit to the inner solar system and its first exposure to intense sunlight. Most planets and objects circle counterclockwise in space, however, Lulin is so unique that it spins clockwise.

While all the planets and most of the other objects in the solar system circle the sun counterclockwise, Lulin circles clockwise, said NASA astronomer Stephen Edberg. And thanks to an optical illusion, from Earth it appears as if the comet’s tail is in the front as the comet approaches Earth and the sun.

Portions of the southeast will be overcast on Monday night which will make it difficult to view Comet Lulin. When asked what he would do if his efforts to capture the comet aren’t successful, Myers replied “I still have all my receipts.”

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