The brightest comet of 2021 is approaching the Earth

(ORDO NEWS) — The very first comet discovered by astronomers in 2021 promises to be the brightest comet of the year. In December, it will approach the Earth so much that, according to scientists, it will be visible to the naked eye. It is registered in the electronic circular of the Minor Planet Center under the name C / 2021 A1 (Leonard).

The first comet this year was detected on January 3 in images taken by the 1.5-meter reflector telescope of the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona, USA.

At the time of detection, the comet was located in the constellation Dogs Hounds and had a magnitude of about +19 magnitude. In the images, she has a gas-dust coma up to 10 arc seconds in diameter and a short dust tail up to 5 arc seconds long.

On December 12, 2021, C / 2021 A1 (Leonard) is expected to be 0.233 astronomical units from Earth and can be seen with the naked eye. On December 18, 2021, the comet will fly 0.0283 astronomical units from Venus, and on January 3, 2022, it will pass its perihelion point at a distance of 0.61 astronomical units from the Sun.

C / 2021 A1 is notable for the fact that it will pass very close to Venus – only 4.2 million kilometers. In the entire history of astronomical observations, only five comets flew closer to Earth.

Comet C / 2021 A1 (Leonard), January 6, 2021. The photo is the result of the addition of four images with exposures of 300 seconds each, performed with the remote telescope T21 (iTelescope.Net, RAS Observatory in New Mexico, USA

The comet moves in a very elongated elliptical orbit, that is, it belongs to the class of long-period. The angle of inclination of its retrograde orbit to the plane of the ecliptic is 132.7 degrees.

Scientists predict that as it approaches Earth, the comet will reach a maximum brightness of about +4 magnitude. In fact, it may be even brighter. Due to the fact that at this moment C / 2021 A1 will be located between the Sun and the Earth, one can expect the effect of forward scattering and, as a consequence, a high brightness of the dust tail. Taking into account the effect of forward scattering, the comet can reach a maximum brightness of about +1.5 magnitude.

In the middle latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, the comet will be available for amateur observations from September. She will slowly move against the background of the constellations Ursa Major, Hounds Dogs and Hair of Veronica.

However, the situation will change from the end of November. Due to the approach of the moment of approach to the Earth, the apparent angular velocity of the comet in the sky will increase significantly. Observers will only have a few days to see its maximum brightness. From December 1 to December 13, the comet will quickly move against the background of the constellations Bootes, Serpent, Hercules and Ophiuchus, and then will move to the sky of the Southern Hemisphere.


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