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On May 6, comet NEAT makes its closest pass to Earth--30 million miles away--and by the end of the month it will be in Ursa Major and fading as it speeds off. PageLink(12182)
Really NEAT comet coming
By Deane Morrison
During May, Comet NEAT is predicted to brighten enough to be seen with the naked eye, at least from dark skies. But before anybody gets too excited, the traditional cometary disclaimer is in order: Comet brightness is notoriously hard to predict, so if Comet NEAT turns out to be a dud, don't say you weren't warned. Although Comet NEAT's brightness is uncertain, its path through the heavens is not. The comet will come out in the southwest during the first week of the month. On the 6th, it makes its closest pass to Earth--30 million miles away--and it appears very low to the horizon. On subsequent nights it climbs steadily higher. It passes to the left of the bright star Procyon on the 9th and 10th. On the 14th and 15th, the comet appears within two degrees (four full moon widths) of the gorgeous Beehive star cluster, first below the Beehive and then above it. Also on the 15th, the comet reaches its nearest point to the sun (perihelion)--89 million miles--and begins its journey back to the outer reaches of the solar system. By the end of the month, the comet will be in Ursa Major and fading as it speeds away. PageLink(12182)