Comet Leonard may have spawned a meteor shower on Venus

(ORDO NEWS) — Comet Leonard could cause meteor showers on Venus this weekend as it approaches the planet.

Officially known as Comet C / 2021 A1, also known as Comet Leonard, was discovered in January by astronomer Gregory J. Leonard of the Mount Lemmon Infrared Observatory in Arizona. Its close passage over Venus this weekend gives sky watchers a mark in the evening sky to help locate a comet that is visible from Earth with binoculars and may be bright enough to be visible with the naked eye under clear, dark skies.

On Venus, however, things are different. The orbit of the planet and the comet will be within 50,000 km of each other, which is equivalent to the geosynchronous orbital path of a satellite over Earth.

Comet Leonard is a once-in-a-lifetime stargazer, with an orbit of about 80,000 years.

Given the thick cloud cover on Venus, observing a meteor shower on the planet will require you to be at an altitude of 55 to 60 kilometers, where temperatures and pressures are somewhat similar to those of Earth.

“This is the only place in the solar system where Earth’s temperature and pressure conditions are present, and the astronaut could potentially stand on the railing of a breathing apparatus, but in a spacesuit,” said Paul Byrne, a planetary scientist at the University of Washington in St. Louis.

The article suggested that the best scenario for a meteor shower occurs when Venus is following a comet’s trail, but this would require very high comet activity. This is a rare scenario, but possible.

“If we had reliable detection of meteorites on Venus as a result of this event, it would tell us that this comet was quite active at great distances from the Sun,” Zhang said earlier.

There is only one orbiter on Venus: the Japanese spacecraft Akatsuki. But Earth, Venus and the Sun could be oriented in such a way that Earth observers could see faint flares from the debris of Comet Leonard, Zhang said. (Close flyby of Comet Siding Spring was spotted by several spacecraft near Mars in 2014.)


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