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Fragmenting Comet Flyby To Be Webcast

Comet 73 P Schwassmann-Wachmann. Image credit: NASA/JPL/Tim Puckett
by Staff Writers
New York NY (SPX) Apr 18, 2006, an astronomical event Web site, said Tuesday it will begin live monitoring of the approach of Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann, beginning this week at 9 p.m. Eastern Time.

The comet, which has broken up into 19 separate pieces, is heading for a rendezvous with Earth. broadcasts live celestial events via its Web site from its telescopes stationed at high altitude at the Institute of Astrophysics of the Canary Islands.

The Web coverage will be hosted by astronomer David Levy, the co-discoverer of Comet Shoemaker-Levy; Bob Berman, a columnist for Astronomy Magazine; Michael Narlock, head of astronomy at the Cranbrook Institute of Science, and Jeffrey Bass, head of astronomy at the Milwaukee Public Museum.

"We have assembled the equipment and the commentators for just such a spectacle," said Michael Paolucci, president of "It will amaze people to see it live while the experts explain exactly what they are seeing."

First discovered 76 years ago, Comet 73P Schwassmann-Wachmann split into 3 pieces in 1995 and, as a result, it grew brighter by three orders of magnitude.

The brightest fragment "C" will zoom past Earth at a distance of 0.0735 Astronomical Units (11 million kilometers or about 7 million miles), and therefore does not threaten the planet. The other two main pieces may pass a little closer at 0.0515 AU and 0.0505 AU, respectively.

Although rare, comet splits have been reported in the past, with the best-known case the comet Shoemaker Levy, which split into 21 pieces before plowing into Jupiter in 1994.

Launched in 2003 and with members in 60 countries, is the only live online telescope available to the public. Its patent-pending technology collects the light of distant celestial objects and streams it over the Internet in real time.'s telescopes are configured to optimize the view of thousands of astronomical objects such as the Orion Nebula, the Whirlpool Galaxy and the Pleiades Cluster -- objects that are nearly impossible to see with backyard telescopes.

The organization's telescopes are stationed five hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, which enables viewers in North America to see the night sky during daylight hours in the United States, starting as early as 2 p.m. Eastern Time.'s partners include, Astronomy Magazine, and VSNL, one of the largest broadband companies in India.

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Fragmented Comet Will Sweep By Earth Next Month
Boulder CO (SPX) Apr 17, 2006
Astronomers tracking Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 report that the near-Earth object continues to break apart, with at least 20 fragments now approaching the planet for a close encounter next month.

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