Two record-breaking comet flybys in March 2016

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March 2016 turns out to be the month of great celestial events.

Two comets – comet 252P/LINEAR 12 and Comet P/2016 BA14 (PANSTARRS) – will make record-breaking Earth flybys with the passage of PANSTARRS being the closest known comet flyby of the last 230 hundred years.

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NASA

On March 21 2016, Comet 252P/LINEAR 12 will make its closest approach yet, passing just 3.1 million miles (5.3 million km) away from Earth.

On March 22 2016, Comet P/2016 BA14 (PANSTARRS) is set to pass by Earth at a distance of 2.1 million miles (3.5 million km). This is a record-breaking approach to Earth for a comet as it will be the closest known comet flyby of the last 230 hundred years.

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Images by Michael S. P. Kelley and Silvia Protopapa (UMD) confirming a cometary tail behind “asteroid” 2016 BA14 (Comet PanSTARRS). Image credit: M. Kelley/S. Protopapa/Univ. Maryland

The latest distance record for a comet flyby was set in 1983 as comet IRAS-Araki-Alcock flew by Earth at 2.9 million miles (4.7 million km).

Meanwhile, a small asteroid will buzz Earth on March 5, 2016.

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