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No joke: April Fools' Day comet to zoom by Earth

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Comet 45P  Honda-Mrkos-Pajdusakova in 2011

This is because comet 41P only passes by Earth in its travel between Jupiter and the sun every 5.4 years and, despite being near the Earth for around six days, it will most be visible for your viewing pleasure on April 1, hence the moniker.

41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák is named for its three discoverers - Horace Tuttle, Michel Giacobini, and Ľubor Kresák, respectively - who each "found" the comet in the distinct years of 1858, 1907 and 1951. Tenagra Observatories in Arizona posted an image of Comet 41P on March 22, where it was seen among the stars of the constellation Ursa Major.

Called the Green Comet, and designated 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresak, astronomers and space enthusiasts describe it as an impressive comet as it glows green and is nearly visible to the naked eye, though a backyard telescope would provide a distinctly clearer view.

It might be streaming by on April Fools' Day, but this comet is no holiday prank.

At its closest point, the Comet 41P/Tuttle-Giacobini-Kresák will be about 13 million miles (20.9 million kilometers) from Earth during its flyby, making this encounter the comet's closest pass by Earth since it was first sighted in 1907, according to NASA.

A perihelion passage is the point in the orbit of a planet, asteroid or comet when it is closest to the sun. Weather permitting, the comet should be a good target for skywatchers with binoculars or a telescope.

Stargazers will be able to spot the comet with small telescopes - and possibly even binoculars - from now until mid-April.

After observing its approach to the sun in 1995, 2001 and 2006, scientists have observed that these sudden flares usually happen when the comet makes its closest approach to the sun.

"The comet will appear in the night sky as a diffuse blob of light, which means it's only as visible as Neptune in the night sky, and is too faint to be seen with the naked eye". Despite this, it's apparently unusual for a comet to get as close to Earth as this comet will. One can also watch the comet today via Slooh's live tracking that will use telescopes located in the Canary Islands.

"This is the comet's closest approach to Earth in more than 50 years and perhaps more than a century", NASA said.

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