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Fragmented Comet Will Sweep By Earth Next Month

High-resolution images of Fragment B taken on April 12. Image credit: Aletti Andrea and Buzzi Luca/Schiaparelli Observatory
by Staff Writers
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.

In the process of breaking up, pieces of the comet actually have grown brighter as they approach Earth and the sun. In particular, astronomers report, fragment B has brightened by a factor of 15 just since the beginning of this month. This phenomenon signals a possible breakup of 73P-B into even more fragments.

At present, fragment B is glowing like a 9th magnitude star, making it an easy target for backyard telescopes and CCD cameras. Fragment G also has split. Fresh ice exposed by the disruption is vaporizing, causing this fragment also to brighten nearly fifteen-fold since April 2, reaching a brightness of magnitude 12.

Amateur astronomers with backyard telescopes and CCD cameras can monitor the ongoing disintegration. Spaceweather.com is providing sky maps, images and more information on its Web site.

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Corot Space Telescope On Target For October Launch
Paris, France (SPX) Apr 17, 2006
The Corot Space Telescope has completed its electromagnetic compatibility and vibration testing successfully and remains on schedule for launch this October, CNES said in a statement Wednesday.

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