The third closest comet pass in recorded history went down last week, and it was nearby enough for NASA to get a cool video of it.
That is Comet P/2016 BA14, and it is a little over a half a mile wide. Last week, it passed by Earth at a distance of 2.2 million miles.
That may seem far, the moon is only a tenth of that distance, but it’s the closest a comet has come since before the 1800s. By contrast, the solar system’s most famous comet, Halley’s, comes within eight million miles of Earth.
NASA’s Goldstone Solar System Radar in the Mojave Desert was able to ping the comet over the course of three days to create that map of its surface and flight path.
How fucking wild is that?
“The radar images show that the comet has an irregular shape: looks like a brick on one side and a pear on the other,” said Shantanu Naidu, a researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “We can see quite a few signatures related to topographic features such as large flat regions, small concavities and ridges on the surface of the nucleus.”
The last comet to come this close to Earth was Lexell’s Comet in 1770.
[Via Universe Today]