BURSTING COMET: Comet C/2001 A2 (LINEAR), which crumbled and brightened as it neared the Sun on May 24, 2001, is flaring once again as it heads for a late-June close encounter with Earth. Glowing at visual magnitude 3.3, the comet's fuzzy head is visible to the unaided eye and its tail is a lovely sight through binoculars, say observers. Sky watchers south of the equator can spot comet LINEAR easily in the eastern sky between 4am local time and sunrise [finder chart].

Above: Australia's Gordon Garradd captured this view of the comet's tail stretching 1.5 degrees on May 18, 2001.
(Copyright 2001, G. Garradd)

Although this comet is too far south for many of our readers to enjoy now, it will make an appearance in northern skies later this month. By June 30th (the date of the comet's closest approach to our planet at 0.24 AU) it will lie ~30 deg. above the eastern horizon before dawn as seen from mid-northern latitudes. How bright will the crumbling comet become? Watch it and see! [3D orbit][ephemeris]