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May 23, 2017

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Comet Lulin moving closer to earth: local astronomers

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- People in Taiwan now have the opportunity of appreciating the first comet discovered by local astronomers, who gave the name to Comet Lulin.

An astronomer at the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) already captured an image of the comet at a parking lot on the central East-West Cross-Island Highway and placed them on the CWB Web site.

Comet Lulin was initially described as an asteroidal object when found by Ye Quanzhi at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China.

Three images were obtained by Lin Chi-sheng of the Institute of Astronomy, National Central University at Zhongli in Taiwan on July 11, 2007.

Lin had acquired the images using the 41-cm camera at the university's Lulin Observatory in Nantou, central Taiwan.

The discovery of Comet Lulin (C/2227 N3) was part of the major achievements made in the Lulin Sky Survey (LUSS) project.

The comet steadily brightened during the last months of 2008. It was near magnitude 11.0 at the beginning of July, 10.5 at the beginning of August, 10.0 at the beginning of September and 9.5 at the beginning of October.

As the comet approached evening twilight, it was observed by some observers at low altitude.

The tail of Lulin, will become most vivid in late January and early February.

The comet is presently moving between the constellations Scorpio and Libra before running towards Leo at an accelerating pace in late February.

Lulin will pass 0.41 AU (Astronomical Unit) from earth and reach the closest distance to Earth on Feb. 24 — about 14.5 times the distance between Earth and the Moon. One AU is the distance between Earth and the Sun.

The comet's maximum magnitude in late February is expected to reach magnitude 4 and can be seen with naked eye.

Astronomers advised star gazers to make use of the upcoming long Chinese Lunar New Year holidays to appreciate the comet. The object can be seen low in the sky in the east-southeast direction before dawn.

Judging from its movements, the chance of seeing the comet again could be rather slim, according to some astronomers.

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