Hyderabad, Apr 12: Comet 73 P Schwassmann-Wachmann, which is breaking up, is heading for a rendezvous with the earth next month coming closer than any other comet in the past twenty years.
''In 1995, it was seen to have broken into three bits, when it was about two hundred and forty million kilometers away from the earth. It now appears to have broken into nineteen fragments, the closest of these will be just nine kilometers away around May 12,'' Dr B G Sidharth, Director of the B M Birla Science Centre here, said.
However, these bits would not be very clear and be barely visible to the naked eye. The best time for viewing them would be between May 12 and 14, with the aid of binoculars or a small telescope,'' he said.
''At thist time, the fragments of the Comet will be in the constellations Cygnus (Hansa) and Pegasus (Khagashwa). All this astral phenomenon will be visible in the East from around midnight till the early hours of the morning in the West. There is a small chance that the sighting of the Comet will be accompanied by meteor showers due to its debris, but it seems unlikely,'' Dr Sidharth added.
The break-up of a comet is a common phenomenon and sometimes fragments may even crash into the earth, as happened in Tunguska (Siberia) in 1908, he said, adding that fortunately, the site of the impact was uninhabited. It is believed that this devastation was cuaused by the debris of the Comet Encke.
However, Dr Siddarth assured that there is no chance of frgaments from this particular comet hitting the Earth.