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Comets in the Atlantic?

One of the fun things about working at an observatory is the strange phone calls you get sometimes. When people see something odd in the sky or hear something on the news, they want to ask an astronomer, so they sometimes phone us. Recently, a lady phoned to ask what a bright object in the sky was. Unlike a lot of other people who call, she knew what direction she had been looking, she'd kept watching for long enough to know it was moving with the stars and wasn't an aeroplane and had even looked with binoculars. She was really excited to learn that she had seen Jupiter, and that the four small "stars" she'd seen through the binoculars were actually the moons Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto.

Today I was passed a call from a man who had heard that a French journalist had said that a comet (SW3) was about to land in the Atlantic Ocean and cause a huge tsunami. The comet to which he was referring is 73P, also known as Schwassmann-Wachmann 3. I was a bit puzzled about why he thought it was going to hit the Earth though, especially as there was a NASA press release not so long ago stating that there was no chance that this comet, or any of the pieces, would hit the Earth. It seems this mis-information has come from Eric Julien who apparently received information psychically that an impact from this comet would happen on May 25th 2006, causing a giant tsunami which would wipe out low-lying regions in many countries. He has a website dedicated to this and seems to have put quite a bit of work into it. He claims that his vision has been backed up scientifically, but the information he has on his website just doesn't add up.

If you are worried about this, don't be. The closest any piece of this comet comes to the Earth is about five and a half million miles. That is a long way. The largest piece of the comet passed us at a distance of over seven million miles on May 12th.

Posted by Megan on Thursday 25th May 2006 (15:45 UTC) | Add a comment | Permalink


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