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NASA Clarifies Information on Comet Approach


April 27, 2006, NASA issued information Thursday about Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, which will be passing Earth as it approaches the point nearest the sun during its 5.5 year orbit.

Astronomers have been observing the comet for more than 75 years. The trajectory of this comet has been monitored and refined over time, and its path around the sun is well understood.

The comet has broken into more than 40 fragments. Any pieces resulting from the breakup of its main body will come no closer than 5.5 million miles to Earth, or more than 20 times the Earth-moon distance, during its closest approaches May 12 - 28. Neither the main comet nor any of its pieces pose a danger to Earth.

The main fragment C comet will pass closest to Earth on May 12 at a distance of approximately 7.3 million miles. It will be visible to small telescopes during the morning hours in the constellation Vulpecula. NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope will observe the comet in May. NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has also viewed it. For images and more information about the comet, visit:


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