After comet Y1 ATLAS: the "misplaced comet" of spring

The sky is evident? In case you are like us, you took benefit of the current pandemic exile and went out beneath the evening sky. And though 2020 has but to supply an excellent “ comet of the century '' & # 39; to maintain us entertained, there was a gradual stream of excellent binocular comets for viewers within the northern hemisphere, together with C / 2017 T2 PanSTARRS and C / 2019 Y4 ATLAS. This week, I wish to draw your consideration to a different good binocular comet that’s at present at its peak: the "different" comet ATLAS, C / 2019 Y1 ATLAS.

Found by the most recent alert terrestrial asteroid system (ATLAS) based mostly on two geographically separate websites on Haleakala and Mauna Loa, Hawaii on the evening of December 16, 2019, Y1 ATLAS was one of many newest comet discoveries of 2019.

The comet is on a trajectory of 3500 years across the Solar in a prograde orbit inclined by 73 levels with respect to the ecliptic. When this comet final crossed the interior photo voltaic system across the 25th century BC, the nice pyramid of Cheops of Giza was nonetheless contemporary from the builders.

Sadly, cosmic unhealthy luck sees the comet Y1 ATLAS visiting us virtually precisely on the incorrect time of the yr. If the Y1 Atlas had crossed the ecliptic in October, it might have exceeded solely zero.08 astronomical items (AU) or 7.four million miles (12 million miles) from Earth simply at exterior of our orbit, and would have accomplished a pleasant demonstration. As is usually the case with comets, six months earlier or later would have made a giant distinction.

The orbital trajectory of the Y1 ATLAS comet by means of the interior photo voltaic system. Credit score: NASA / JPL.

Because it stands, comet Y1 ATLAS has simply handed perihelion at zero.861 AU (80 million miles / 130 million km) from the Solar on March 16 and is at present shining at +eight magnitude within the constellation of Andromeda. From March to mid-April, the comet stays about 10 levels above the northwest horizon at nightfall for observers of north-north latitude, till it flies north in direction of the celestial north pole, turning into a circumpolar object from the top of April to Might. The comet follows the zero hour line in straight ascent till late spring.

On the time of this writing, this look of the comet seems to be barely outperforming by about half to a full extent.

Comet Y1 ATLAS shortly after its discovery on December 20. Credit score: Remanzacco Observatory.

Hopefully this development will proceed. There may be additionally one thing very particular about comet Y4 ATLAS: its comparable orbit means that it’s a fragment of C / 1988 A1 Liller. This can be the results of a cometary break up way back, as C / 1996 Q1 Tabur and C / 2015 F3 Swan all appear to belong to the identical household of objects. It additionally means that Y1 ATLAS is dynamically new and will produce its personal explosion.

Right here is the piecemeal celestial dates with the destiny of the comet Y1 ATLAS in spring 2020:

(notice: except acknowledged in any other case, "go close to" within the following textual content means lower than one diploma).

Means of the Comet till the top of Might throughout the sky. Credit score: Starry evening.


27-Photograph op: the comet passes between NGC 7662 (the planetary nebula Blue Snowball, 9 levels aside), and M31 (the Andromeda galaxy) at 5 levels.

The trajectory of comet Y1 ATLAS till the top of April at nightfall, considered from 35 levels north latitude. Credit score Starry Evening.


1-Traverse within the
constellation of Cassiopeia the Queen.

14-Crosses the
the galactic equator to the north.

26-Traverse the constellation of Cepheus the King.

The projected mild curve of comet C / 2019 Y1 ATLAS. Credit score: Seiichi Yoshida's weekly information on vivid comets.


1 photo-op: Y1 ATLAS teams with two different notable comets from 2020: T2 PanSTARRS (6 levels aside) and Y4 ATLAS (20 levels aside).

2-Crosses in Camelopardalis, and passes closest to the North Celestial Pole (NCP) at lower than eight levels.

Three-The closest to Earth at 1.17 AU distant.

9-Crosses in Draco.

13- Crosses over
Ursa Main, and goes Three levels from M81 / M82.

20 passes close to Duhbe
(Alpha Ursae Majoris).

Owl Nebula Messier 97 in 24 passes.


22 passes to Coma Berenices.

29 passes close to the open cluster Melotte 111.

A unfavorable publicity of the comet Y1 ATLAS from March 23. Picture credit score and copyright: Michael Jäger.

As we enter July, the comet Y1 ATLAS ought to fall beneath binocular visibility within the vary of magnitude lower than 10, in order to not go to the interior photo voltaic system once more earlier than the center of the seventh millennium AD.

Observing comets with binoculars is so simple as scanning the suspect discipline and on the lookout for the fuzzy little "star" that stubbornly refuses to focus. Understand that a + eighth magnitude comet might seem visually weaker than a + eighth magnitude star, as all of those treasured photons are "unfold out" throughout the obvious floor of the comet.

Comet Y4 ATLAS of March 20. Picture credit score and copyright: Michael Jäger.

As well as, we’ve got lately acquired quite a few requests on comet C / 2019 Y4 ATLAS. Sure, there may be an increasing number of pleasure as this outperforming comet is heading for perihelion in late Might … already, the comet's dusty coma is 720,000 kilometers (450,000 miles) by means of. . and it’s then that it’s nonetheless 1.6 AU from the Solar. Claims, nonetheless, that it’ll grow to be "the brightest comet ever seen!" have to be greeted with excessive skepticism. Sure, it may attain zero magnitude close to the perihelion on Might 31… however it should additionally seem at 13 levels from the Solar on this date, and will likely be submerged by the reflections of the Solar. One of the best wager is to chew the comet round daybreak in early Might, earlier than it lastly disappears.

Allow us to hope that the monitoring of those comets will go the time in exile. We may actually use a photo voltaic explosion, galactic supernovae courtesy of Betelgeuse, or a big comet with the bare eye proper now … simply nothing apocalyptic.

– Head picture of comet C / 2019 Y1 ATLAS courtesy of José J. Chambó / Slooh

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