There’s something truly unique happening in the space around our planet this week as a pair of comets, which may be “twin” space rocks that broke apart at some point, make two of the closest passes by Earth in modern history. To add a little to the cosmic drama, the larger of the twins is coming in much brighter than expected. So bright, in fact, that it may be possible to see it with the naked eye.
Comet P/2016 BA14 was first spotted by the PanSTARRS telescope in Hawaii in January and was originally assumed to be an asteroid. But a second round of observations by a University of Maryland and Lowell Observatory team revealed a faint tail that led astronomers to conclude the object was actually a comet. When the new comet’s orbit was cross-referenced with other known comets, it was found to be more or less tracing the path of another comet known as 252P/LINEAR, first discovered in 2000. This could be a coincidence, of course, or it could be evidence that the two comets are related. READ MORE