Comet Leonard is here! Know how and when to watch it, next time will be too late
Comet Leonard will approach the closest to the Earth today. Know how and when you can watch it.
Skywatchers, this is the best of times for you! 2021's brightest comet C/2021 A1, aka Comet Leonard, is making its closest approach to Earth today. Discovered by astronomer Gregory J. Leonard on January 3 this year at the Mount Lemmon Observatory, Comet Leonard will make its closest approach to Earth today, which is around 35 million kilometers. So, if you are worried about Comet leonard crashing into Earth, then forget about it. It is close, but not that close. It will remain very far away, and hence, comes without any risk for Earthlings.
After that, Venus will greet the comet in its neighbourhood a few days later, around December 18-19, and during this time it will be impossible to even get the glimpse of it because it will just pass 4 million kilometres from its surface!
Comet Leonard has a "hyperbolic orbit," which means it has spent the last 35,000 years moving toward the sun. Now, Comet Leonard will transit through the inner solar system once and then continue on its way out into space after passing by the sun.
When can you see comet Leonard?
Experts estimate that Comet Leonard will stay below the magnitude 6 bar, the limit below which a star can be seen with the naked eye, for several days, and that it will perhaps wander around with the magnitude 4 bar, thanks to its closer approach to Earth. After December 14, right after sunset, you'll be able to glimpse the newly found Comet Leonard as it approaches the sun. It will be best visible on December 17, astronomers suggested. Then, on January 3, it will pass by the sun and disappear into space, never to be seen again from Earth. People will be able to witness it first in the southern hemisphere. Still, if you are worrying about missing this opportunity, then know that you can watch the Virtual Telescope Project livestream from its observatory in Rome.
The space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) mentioned that Comet Leonard is losing its brightness as it is coming closer to the Earth. Still, you can expect the comet to be observable in the sky in the evening, especially right after or a few hours of sunset. To have a clear view, it is advised to use a telescope or binoculars to enjoy the view of Comet Leonard. The best view however, is reported to be around dawn. Though already several amateur astronomers around the globe are following the comet and shared glimpses of it on social media.
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