Image generated with Starry Night Software - www.starrynight.com
View of Comets NEAT and LINEAR on May 21, 2004, from 34 degrees South latitude
A Sign in the Sky
The stage is set for a very unusual celestial event. From late April through May 2004, two recently discovered comets will simultaneously make their closest approach to Earth. Comet NEAT (C/2001 Q4) will be moving from south to north in the evening skies. Comet NEAT will be visible in both the northern and southern hemispheres. Comet LINEAR (C/2002 T7) will be moving easterly across the southern skies. Comet LINEAR is not expected to be visible from the northern hemisphere.
Although the brightness of comets is very difficult to predict, their closeness to Earth makes it likely that these comets will appear at least as bright as Comet Hyakutake in 1996--easily visible to the naked eye.
It is an extremely unusual event to have two comets passing closely to Earth within a period of days. Interestingly, the paths of these comets are roughly perpendicular to each other, forming the shape of a "cross" or a "medicine wheel" in our sky. Some people will naturally see this event as a sign in the heavens. This event will likely produce some interesting observations from indigenous elders and prophets of all traditions across the planet. No matter how it is interpreted, however, this event is certainly in one sense a great blessing--for it will afford us an opportunity to look to the sky together and appreciate the beauty of the living universe that both surrounds and fills us all.
Related Article: Path of Comets Viewed from Northern Hemisphere
Related Article: Chart for Venus Transit (June 8, 2004)