Discovered in 1986 by Australian astronomer Malcolm Hartley, comet 103P or Hartley 2 is set for the closest encounter with earth in 24 years. This “dirty snowball” that is comprised of rock, dust, ice and frozen gases was visible in the constellation of Auriga as a fuzzy, green blur to Northern Hemisphere observers during Mid-October.

Through November, Southern Hemisphere stargazers can catch a glimpse of the comet as it travels away from earth, using the naked eye, binoculars and of course, a telescope. This year, Hartley 2 made its closest pass at a mere 11 million miles on October 20th and is calculated to orbit the Sun every 6 ½ years. EPOXI, or Extrasolar Planet Observation and Deep Impact Extended Investigation is a spacecraft that is due to make a flyby of Hartley 2 from only 600 miles away on November 4th. The mission plans to gather information on the comet’s surface and craters, as well as close-up images of dust and gas plumes.

Check back on our web site for "post fly by" information and updates!


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