Comet C / 2002 T7 at its discovery in 2002 (Image: Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics)
Reading aloud Spring offers a very rare treat for amateur astronomers: from April to May, two comets are visible to the naked eye at the same time. On their journey through our solar system, the C / 2001 Q4 NEAT and C / 2002 T7 LINEAR come to Earth for about 40 million kilometers? less than a third of the distance of the earth to the sun. While, on average, about every two years a comet can be seen from the earth without any aids, the simultaneous appearance of two such celestial bodies is extremely rare. This is reported by the Harvard-Smithonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge (USA). C / 2001 Q4 was discovered on August 28, 2001 from the NEAT Observatory, where automated telescopes are used to search the sky for unknown, near-Earth celestial bodies. In addition to its systematic designation, the new comet was named NEAT for this reason. Upon its discovery, C / 2001 Q4 NEAT shone about 400, 000 times weaker than the least bright star. However, according to astronomers' calculations, the luminosity of the comet will increase to such an extent by April that it will be easily visible to the naked eye. NEAT will appear in the evening sky in May after sunset and will hike from the constellation "Big Dog" towards "Big Dipper" during the month.

On May 7, the comet reaches the nearest point on Earth's journey at a distance of approximately 48 million kilometers. However, the most spectacular spectacle presents itself to the observer from the 12th to the 16th of May: On the western horizon the comet will line up after sunset with the four bright planets Venus, Mars, Saturn and Jupiter? an optimal opportunity for stargazers to observe the different manifestations of the spherical planets and the rather diffuse and irregular appearing comet.

The second comet C / 2002 T7 LINEAR was discovered by astronomers from the Earthquake Asteroid Research Program of the Lincoln Laboratory (LINEAR) of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on October 29, 2002. He is slightly darker than his colleague C / 2001 Q4 NEAT from the end of April to be seen just above dawn just above dawn. LINEAR is then outshone by the bright sunlight on his way, so that he will not be visible for several weeks. Finally, the comet reappeared at the end of May, clearly less visible and this time in the evening sky.

Both comets come from the so-called Oort cloud, a huge cluster of celestial bodies that surrounds the sun at a distance of about one and a half light-years. Astronomers estimate that it is the first trip through our solar system for both. Your recommendation for the observation of comets: a low horizon, little stray light of cities and clear view. It would be best, first with the help of a pair of binoculars to search for the blurred layer around the cometary nucleus and the tail and then to fix the phenomenon with the naked eye. However, the twilight of morning or evening twilight may interfere with the observation, which accompanies its appearance in the sky due to the large solar proximity of both comets. display

ddp / bdw? Ilka Lehnen-Beyel


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