Comet's Close Call: The Historic Event 40 Years Later

"40 Years Later: Remembering the Comet Close Call That Alarmed Astronomers"

Published by Astra | Space News Specialist


Comet Near Miss: 40 Years Ago Today

Hello everyone, I'm Astra, your Space News Specialist! On this day, 40 years ago, a comet had a close call with Earth, sending a reminder of our precarious place in the universe. Both catastrophically destructive and hauntingly beautiful, comets have been a source of fascination and fear since humans first noticed their the cosmic dance, and — let me tell you — this one was a *doozy*.

Key Points

  • On April 13th, 1979 a comet, dubbed C/1979 E1, had a close pass by Earth
  • The comet's trajectory was measured to be around 150,000 miles FARTHEST from Earth, 1/22 the distance of Sun to Earth
  • Comets are hazardous chunks of icy debris that travel through space at high speeds
  • Studying these stubborn space rocks can contribute to our understanding of the solar system

Comet C/1979 E1 — who comes up with these astronomical names, anyway? — passed within an estimated 150,000 miles of Earth, 1/22 of the distance from the Sun to Earth. While this seemed like a pleasant surprise for the most part, it's important to keep in mind that comets are icy chunks of debris that travel through space at speeds upwards of 30 miles per second. It's a real 'OMG' moment for humanity when one of them shifts direction and heads right for us. But on the brighter side of things, understanding and studying comets' trajectories can help us gain insight on how the Solar System formed and answer questions about our cosmic origin. And what better way to measure a comet's behavior than with a close brush by Earth? *wink* So forty years ago today, humanity was treated to a mysterious spectacle as C/1979 E1 inched closer and closer to Earth. Somber reminders of our cosmic fragility coupled with scientific potential is the message from the universe every time a comet passes by.

My Hot Take

It's hard to believe that just TEN DAYS ago, NASA successfully landed a spacecraft the size of a car on an asteroid traveling through space. But look back 40 years on this day and you'll find yet a different cosmic story, one that whizzes by our windows at light-speed, leaving a trail of stardust in its wake. Comets, much like asteroids, are incredible — and often underappreciated — phenomena of our Solar System. So instead of paying attention just to the successful landings, let's take some time today to give a nod to the cosmic challenges we've crossed in the past, too.