Comet Leonard passes our Sun very CLOSE! Here's what happened | Tech News

Comet Leonard passes our Sun very CLOSE! Here's what happened

Comet Leonard, the brightest ultrafast chunk of rock, dust, and ice was visible for skywatchers on Monday. It was discovered on January 1, 2021 and made its closest approach to the Sun.

| Updated on: Jan 04 2022, 16:29 IST
Comet Leonard passed close to sun on Monday.
Comet Leonard passed close to sun on Monday. (ESA)

The brightest Comet Leonard, that's currently traveling through the inner solar system, was reportedly visible on Monday (January 3). The ultrafast chunk of rock, dust, and ice had reportedly made its closest approach to the Sun. The icy wanderer went brighter unexpectedly in December last week as it drew closer to the sun.

The Comet Leonard, also known as comet C/2021 A1, was discovered on Jan. 3, 2021 and since then it has been targeted by amateur astronomers. Leonard's perihelion or the closest approach to the sun in its orbit took place hours before Earth's own perihelion on Tuesday, Jan. 4, at 1:52 a.m. EST (0652 GMT). But Leonard's perihelion was a much more of a close approach than that of the Earth's.

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The comet approached the sun at a distance of roughly 56 million miles (90 million kilometers), which is about half that of Earth's distance to the sun. It was reported that the comet will have to survive the sun's intense gravitational force along with the solar wind, but there's a risk Leonard may fall apart. However, NASA said that even if the comet survives the journey, its trajectory will fling it into interstellar space, never to return.

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The space research centre has noted that Leonard made a 40,000-year journey to reach near the sun from the outer solar system, but it was discovered on January 3, 2021, a year before perihelion.

Before, comet Leonard made the closest pass, its views were captured by two Sun-observing spacecraft. NASA Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory-A spacecraft, SECCHI/HI-2 telescope, has watched the comet since early November.

Comet Leonard was discovered by Gregory Leonard, a senior research specialist at the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory. He spotted it in images taken from Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona. Talking about his discovery, he told in December, "That is strictly coincidental, but I like coincidence." He said that it was a serendipitous, or incidental, discovery in one of our standard survey fields, looking for near-Earth asteroids.

He also shared why this comet was different from other asteroids that are discovered throughout the year. This comet was seen on an orbit that brings it relatively close to the sun and the Earth.

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First Published Date: 04 Jan, 16:29 IST