Comet Coming in for Close-Up

Comet Lulin may be visible for the next three nights

Over the next three nights, skywatchers can expect their best views yet of Comet Lulin, an odd, greenish backward-flying comet that's "zipping by Earth this month, as it takes its only trip toward the sun from the farthest edges of the solar system."

The Chicago Tribune reports that Comet Lulin makes its closest approach to Earth — some 38 million miles away — on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

To the naked eye, the comet looks like a fuzzy patch of hazy light against the night sky, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The paper further recommends th use of binoculars or telescopes. With those aids, you should be able to pick out the comet's brighter center, along with its dual tail -- "a brighter tail of dust, and a dimmer one of ionized gases the comet sheds as its sun-warmed ices change directly from a solid to a gas."

What's additionally interesting about this comet is the story behind it.  The Tribune article says that Lulin was discovered by a Chinese teenager two years ago.

Also remarkable is the fact that, while all the planets and most of the other objects in the solar system circle the sun counterclockwise, Lulin circles clockwise, the paper quotes NASA astronomer Stephen Edberg as saying.

"It essentially is going backwards through the solar system," he said.

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