Thursday, 28 August 2014

Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques) makes its closest approach to Earth.

Comet C/2014 E2 (Jacques) passed the Earth at a distance of 0.56 AU (i.e. 56% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, about 84 million km) on Thursday 28 August 2014. This is not a close approach (it is further than the distance between Mercury and the Sun), but is the closest that the comet is likely to come to the Earth in the lifetime of anyone alive, as it has an orbital period estimated to exceed 21 000 years. The comet is currently visible to amateur astronomers armed with binoculars in the Northern Hemisphere, staying permanently above the horizon in the constellation of Cassiopeia. In September it will move through the constellations of Cepheus, Cygnus, Vulpecula and Sagitta, reaching Aquila on 1 October, where it will remain visible till the beginning of December.

An image of C/2014 E2 (Jacques) taken on 1 April 2014. Damien Peach/Universe Today.

C/2014 E2 (Jacques) was discovered on 13 March 2014 by Cristóvão Jacques Lage de Faria, Eduardo Pimentel and João Ribeiro de Barros working at the Southern Observatory for Near Earth Asteroids Research in Minas Gerais State, Brazil. The name C/2014 E2 (Jacques) implies that it is a non-periodic comet (C/) (all comets are, strictly speaking, periodic since they all orbit the Sun, but those with periods longer than 200 years are considered to be non-periodic), that it was the second comet (comet 2) discovered in the first half of March 2014 (period 2014 E), and that it was discovered by Jacques.

Star chart showing the position of C/2014 E2 (Jacques) in the sky as seen from Earth from May 2014 to February 2015. In the sky.

C/2014 E2 (Jacques) is calculated to have a 21 355 year orbital period and a highly eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 156° to the plain of the Solar System (or 66° traveling in a retrograde direction) that takes it from 0.66 AU from the Sun at perihelion (66% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, slightly inside the orbit of Venus) to 1539 AU from the Sun at aphelion, which is 1542 times as far from the Sun as the Earth, over 500 times as far from the Sun as Neptune, 300 times as far from the Sun as the outer limit of the Kuiper Belt, but still within the inner Oort Cloud.

The calculate orbit of C/2014 E2 (Jacques). JPL Small Body Database.

See also...

Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) will reach its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun)  on Wednesday 27 August 2014, though it will not be visible...

The Rosetta Spacecraft moved into position alongside Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko on Wednesday 6 August 2014, the first spacecraft to reach a cometary target, and ten years after the mission was launched. It...

C/2002 VQ94 (LINEAR) was discovered by the Lincoln...

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