Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2002 March 26
Explanation: Comet Ikeya-Zhang has become bright enough to stand out in the night sky. Discovered February 1, the comet has now just rounded the Sun and has likely attained its peak brightness. The comet appears near the Sun and over the next week moves from the evening sky (just after sunset) to the morning sky (just before sunrise). Many observers report a current brightness approaching third magnitude. The comet is actually a giant snowball created during the early days of our Solar System and pushed out by the gravitational tugs by massive planets. Comet Ikeya-Zhang has been back to the inner Solar System at least once before in 1661. Above, the comet was photographed above Tenerife, one the Canary Islands, Spain.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.