Sunday, January 26, 2003
Steamboat Springs The comet predicted for this week's night sky will be too close to the sun for the human eye to see, but a satellite is watching.
"It will be an index fingernail at arm's length width away from the sun," Colorado Mountain College astronomy professor Jimmy Westlake said.
If Comet Kudo-Fujikawa survives its encounter with the sun, however, it could be a spectacular event in early February.
Comets are basically snowballs, he said, and the heat from the sun created the steamy head and tail that we associate with them.
Comet Kudo-Fujikawa, dubbed the "Christmas comet," was discovered in Japan on Dec. 13 by a Japanese amateur astronomer named T. Kudo through a set of binoculars, according to the Web site www.spaceweather.com.
The comet will be closest to the sun on Wednesday night, Westlake said. It will make a hairpin turn around the sun, passing closer than Mercury, and "then, we are not sure what is going to happen," he said.
"If it holds together, it will be something to see," he said. "It is a game of watch and wait."