The Elenin comet is passing through our inner solar system at this very moment and is going to make its closest approach to earth tomorrow, Oct. 16. Sci-fi fanatics and doomsdayers have sparked a firestorm on the web saying that its approach is linked to our planet’s destruction, and there is a NASA conspiracy to cover it all up. On its part NASA says that it’s a wimpy comet and poses no threat to earth. In fact the remains of Elenin will pass by Earth and will not return to Earth for another 12,000 years.
Some comets like Hale-Bopp in 1997 — have really lit up the night sky where you can see them easily with the naked eye as they safely transit the inner-solar system. But Elenin is trending toward the other end of the spectrum. You’ll probably need a good pair of binoculars, clear skies and a dark, secluded location to see it even on its brightest night.
The comet’s closest point is still out in deep space, at a distance of some 22 million miles from our planet. That’s more than 90 times the distance from the earth to the moon.
The comment was founded by Russian amateur astronomer Leonid Elenin on Dec. 10, 2010, and since then it’s turned out to be quite a sky watching curiosity. Elenin is a Russian amateur astronomer working with the ISON-NM observatory (H15) via the International Scientific Optical Network (ISON) which is the first Russian remote observatory in the West and lives in Moscow region, Russia.
According to Wikipedia, at the time of discovery, the comet had an apparent magnitude of 19.5, making it about 150,000 times fainter than can be seen with the naked eye. The discoverer, Leonid Elenin, estimated that the comet nucleus was 3–4 km in diameter. Comet Elenin started disintegrating in August 2011, and as of mid October 2011 is not visible even using large ground based telescopes. Elenin is a long-period comet
Nonetheless doomsdayers believe otherwise and claim that the comet will align with other planets or celestial bodies to wreak havoc on earth.
Others say that the comet will block out the sun, causing three days of darkness. NASA of course says no, the comet won’t cross the face of the sun as seen from earth, and even if it did it’s much too small to have any effect. Also reports on shifting tides or earthquakes on earth were also denied. In fact there is absolutely no way Elenin could affect life on earth, aside from providing a target for sky watchers to gaze at with telescopes.
Scientists suggest that binoculars or telescopes are required to view the comet because of its dim appearance. Whether the comet will be visible to the unaided eye, however, remains to be seen.