Comet pieces pose no threat to the planet
Earth is in no danger from a comet that is breaking into about 40 fragments, despite information circulating on the Internet that it is a "doomsday" comet, says Carolyn Kaichi, Bishop Museum Planetarium manager.
Fragments of comet 73P/ Schwassmann-Wachmann3, a short-period comet that orbits the sun every 5.4 years, are expected to fall May 25, she said.
But it is calculated that the closest piece will pass more than 5 million miles from Earth -- about 20 times the distance between Earth and the moon, Kaichi said.
"Although the comet won't be hitting the earth, it is making a big splash in the astronomy community," she said, explaining the pieces behave as "minicomets" and produce a tail as they approach the sun.
Several of those minicomets are visible through small telescopes in the night sky, she said.
Meanwhile, leftover dust from Halley's Comet, known as the Eta Aquarids meteor shower, will be visible tomorrow, Kaichi said.
Halley's Comet was last seen in the solar system in 1986 and will not return until 2060, she said.
The Eta Aquarids are best seen after 2 a.m. until sunrise, Kaichi said, adding that comet-watchers in the Southern Hemisphere can expect up to 60 meteors a hour. About 10 per hour are expected in the Northern Hemisphere. Go to a dark area for the best view and look for Aquarius, which rises in the east by 2 a.m., she said.