COMET P/2016 BA14 – possible meteor activity

by Patrizia Madiona

Further to CBET 4257, comet P/2016 BA14 will pass within about 0.024 AU of the earth on Mar. 23, and comet 252P will pass about 0.0357 AU from the earth on Mar. 21-22. At just 2,199,933 miles (3.5 million km) or about 9 lunar distances, which is very close for a comet. In fact, this comet – P/2016 BA14 – will set a record as the third-closest known comet to pass our planet in recorded history. Assuming no unusual brightness variations, each object may approach total visual magnitude 12 around closest approach. G. V. Williams notes that the closest approach of comet 252P to Jupiter since 1899 was in 1987 at a distance of 0.26 AU.

Quan-Zhi Ye, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Western Ontario, writes that, with the help of a meteoroid trail model, the evolution of possible meteoroids ejected from P/2016 BA14 since 1750 AD has been examined, but no trail encounter is found for 2016. However, it is possible that older meteoroid trails from this object are still capable of producing meteor activity, so observers should be on alert.

The most probable time for meteor activity would be around the late hours of 2016 Mar. 20 UT. Possible meteors would radiate from geocentric radiant R.A. = 5h.5 (82 deg), Decl. = -39 deg (equinox J2000.0), with geocentric velocity 14.1 km/s. The radiant would be located in the constellation Columba.

Which comet has passed closer to Earth than any other comet in recorded history ?

First place goes to Comet D/1770 L1 (Lexell). Comet Lexell went at just 5.9 lunar distances on July, 1770. That was about 1,410,100 miles (2.3 million km), so close that Charles Messier noted the comet’s coma looked about the size of four times the apparent size of a full moon.

According to astronomers calculations, Comet 55P/1366 U1 (Temple-Tuttle) passed by Earth on October, 1366 at 8.9 lunar distances.

On May, 1983, comet C/1983 H1 ( IRAS-Araki-Alcock ) passed at 12.2 lunar distances. So comet IRAS – currently the third-closest comet to pass by Earth – will step down to become the fourth-closest after the upcoming flyby on March by the comet discovered this year (P/2016 BA14).

Since comet IRAS passed at 12.2 lunar distances, the upcoming flyby of P/2016 BA14 will be the closest flyby of a comet in 246 years!


Electronic Telegram No. 4259 – Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams

(c) Copyright 2016 CBAT 2016 February 16 (CBET 4259) Daniel W. E. Green