Icy Comet Elenin will make its closest approach to Earth next week and should enter naked eye visibility (magnitude +6) when it comes within 22 million miles of the planet on Oct. 16, according to reports. But will you see it?
New images of Elenin, which were release last month from amateur Australian astronomer Michael Mattiazo, showed a rapid dimming in the comet. Some astronomers believe the comet may be falling apart. Elenin reached its closest point to the sun on Sept. 10. Mattiazo captured two images of Elenin on Aug. 19 and on Sept. 6, which showed that the comet could be disintegrating, as the comet began losing some of its cohesion back in late August and early September when it was nearing the sun.
This could mean that when Oct. 16 comes Comet Elenin may look faint to the naked eye and skywatcher may need to use binoculars or telescope to get a better view hours before sunrise that day.
Space.com reported that Elenin didn't show up last week in camera views from NASA's sun-watching Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). This could be a sign also that it may be unlikely there will be anything left to see of Elenin next week, as some skywatchers cling to hope that Elenin may be a visible morning comet.
Comets are small bodies made up of rock and ice and is usually in the frozen outer areas of the solar system, or the Oort Cloud.
Elenin, officially known as C/2010 X1 Elenin, was discovered in December last year by Russian astronomer Leonid Elenin. It is about two to three miles (three to five kilometers) wide.
When Elenin began passing through the inner solar system in August, many conspiracy theorists said it would bring doomsday to Earth. However, NASA has said that Elenin's closest approach to the plant isn't one to be feared because it is just not close enough and is simply too small to cause any damage.