Backward green comet in the winter skies

comet-lulin2panel_brimacombe1During January and February a unique event is happening above us all . An odd, greenish backward-flying comet is zipping by Earth ttraveling backwards toward the sun from the farthest edges of the solar system. The comet is called Lulin, and there’s a chance it can be seen with the naked eye far from city lights with a telescope, or at least binoculars, in the early AM skies.

Look for it just before dawn one-third of the way up the southern sky. It should be near Saturn and two bright stars, Spica and Regula.comet-lulin_february-2009_sydney-_10-pm_compressed1
On Monday at 10:43 p.m. EST, it will be 38 million miles from Earth, the closest it will ever get, according to Donald Yeomans, manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object program.
This comet is has a greenish tinge which may be hard to see. The color comes from a type of carbon and cyanogen, a poisonous gas.

Lulin was discovered by a Chinese teenager two years ago. It still has many of its original gases that are usually stripped away as comets near the sun. Unlike most comets viewable from Earth, this one hasn’t been this close to the sun before, Yeomans said.

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.

Lulin is essentially traveling backwards through the solar system

Resources

Excerpts courtesy of YahooNews news.yahoo.com/sci_odd_comet

Backward green comet makes one-time only visit – SETH BORENSTEIN, AP, Washington. Tuesday Feb 17,2009.

Image 1. Comet Lulin courtesy of Antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/Lulin
Image 2. Positioning of Lulin in southern sky courtesy of Sydney Observatory.com
sydneyobservatory.com.au/comet-lulin10-pm

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