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Comet Elenin Poses No Threat to Earth

  Trajectory of comet Elenin
  Trajectory of comet Elenin. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
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August 16, 2011 - PASADENA, Calif. -- Often, comets are portrayed as harbingers of gloom and doom in movies
and on television, but most pose no threat to Earth. Comet Elenin, the latest comet to visit our inner solar system, is no exception. Elenin will pass about 22 million miles (35 million kilometers) from Earth during its closest approach on Oct. 16, 2011.

For Hartley-2, the answer so far is neither. "We haven't seen a comet like this before," says Michael Mumma of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Hartley-2 could be the first of a new breed."

Also known by its astronomical name
C/2010 X1, the comet was first detected on
Dec. 10, 2010 by Leonid Elenin, an observer in Lyubertsy, Russia, who made the discovery "remotely" using an observatory in NewMexico. At that time, Elenin was about 401 million miles (647 million kilometers) from Earth. Since its discovery, Comet Elenin has as 0 as all comets do - closed the distance to Earth's vicinity as it makes its way closer to perihelion, its closest point to the sun.

NASA scientists have taken time over the last several months to answer your questions. Compiled below are the some of the most popular questions, with answers from Don Yeomans of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., and David Morrison of the NASA Astrobiology Institute at the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, Calif.

Most Popular Questions About Comet Elenin

When will Comet Elenin come closest to the Earth and appear the brightest?
Comet Elenin should be at its brightest shortly before the time of its closest approach to Earth on Oct. 16, 2011. At its closest point, it will be 22 million miles (35 million kilometers) from us.

Will Comet Elenin come close to the Earth or between the Earth and the moon?
Comet Elenin will not come closer to Earth than 22 million miles (35 million kilometers). That's more than 90 times the distance to the moon.

Can this comet influence us from where it is, or where it will be in the future?
There have been incorrect speculations on the Internet that alignments of comet Elenin with other celestial bodies could cause consequences for Earth and external forces could cause comet Elenin to come closer. "Any approximate alignments of comet Elenin with other celestial bodies are meaningless, and the comet will not encounter any dark bodies that could perturb its orbit, nor will it influence us in any way here on Earth," said Don Yeomans, a scientist at NASA JPL.

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