Atlas, a massive comet five times the size of Jupiter and about half the size of the Sun, will appear brighter than Earth’s Venus by the end of April.
The exact size of the strange comet’s rocky ice core is not known, but it is probably only a few kilometers in diameter – but it has a much larger atmosphere.
It is currently close to the orbit of Mars, but its speed increases as it heads towards the Sun and will make its closest approach to Earth in April.
When it reaches the inner solar system, it will become one of the brightest objects in the night sky and potentially the “comet of a generation”.
This superb image of comet C / 2019 Y4 ATLAS was taken by Michael Jäger on March 18, 2020 and shows its bright green hue. The exact size of the strange comet’s rocky ice core is not known but is probably only a few kilometers in diameter – but it has a much larger atmosphere
Since its discovery for the first time in December, the gaseous envelope surrounding the comet has exploded in diameter to reach a staggering 447,387 miles.
In contrast, the Sun has a diameter of 865,370 miles, the diameter of Jupiter is 86,881 miles and the Earth is only 7,917 miles.
It poses no danger to the Earth, because even at its closest point, it will be more than 72 million kilometers from our planet, but will be very bright.
Atlas has a tail the same size as its atmosphere, according to Michael Jager of Austria – who captured images of the object.
According to a report by SpaceWeatherArchive it is not unusual for a comet to become so large that it “spreads prodigious amounts of gas and dust into space”.
“Comet 17P / Holmes partially exploded and, for a time, had an atmosphere even larger than the sun,” according to the astronomy website.
The green Atlas comet can be seen at the top left of this image taken from a remote-controlled observatory in New Mexico on March 18. Below right are M81 and M82, well known as large gravitational interaction galaxies
“The Great Comet of 1811 also had a sun-sized coma. It remains to be seen whether comet ATLAS will ultimately compete with these behemoths of the past.
It was discovered by Hawaii’s Last Impact Earth Impact Asteroid System (ATLAS) and takes its name from the system’s initials.
The last bright comet visible without a telescope in the northern hemisphere was Hale-Bopp in 1997 – making it a “rare event” for astronomers.
When it was discovered on December 28, 2019, it was weak and required a telescope, but as it gets closer it becomes brighter and can now be seen with binoculars.
Its brightness will be amplified by the Sun as it approaches and is already brighter than astronomers expected at this stage.
“It is certainly a promising comet,” said Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at the University of Nottingham Trent. Time.
“It pushes to a level that, at the end of April, could be really, really beautiful.”
Atlas is currently the largest “ green object ” in the solar system and its color comes from diatomic carbon – a molecule commonly found in comets.
It emits a beautiful green glow when it is in the form of gas in the quasi-vacuum of space.
It has seen its luminosity increase by 4000 times since its discovery and could be visible to the naked eye at the end of April.
When originally spotted, the comet was in Ursa Major and appeared 398,000 times darker than the stars visible to the naked eye from Earth.
It is currently shining like an 8th magnitude star – invisible to the naked eye but easily spotted by garden telescopes.
It quickly lights up as the Sun approaches, say astronomers.
“Right now, the comet is releasing huge amounts of its frozen volatiles (gases),” said Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC.
“That’s why it clears up so quickly,” he added.
“As they get closer to the sun, they give off this material and we get this amazing display,” Brown told The Times.
“It’s already at a level of brightness that you can see through binoculars – this beautiful greenish halo around it and a bit of tail development.”
To survive long enough to be visible as bright light in the sky, he would have to be able to hold onto his ice.
To do this, there would have to be a large nucleus with a reserve of frozen gas – something that astronomers cannot confirm at this time.
If it doesn’t have a large nucleus, it may run out of gas, which will collapse and discolourate as it approaches the Sun, according to SpaceWeatherArchive.
Comet Hale bopp in the night sky was the large, bright comet visible to the naked eye in the northern hemisphere
Battams is not optimistic about his survival, he said. It will likely break before reaching the brightest point on Earth.
“My personal intuition is that comet ATLAS is outperforming, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it start to fade quickly and maybe even disintegrate before reaching the sun,” he says.
There is speculation that this could be related to the Great Comet of 1844 as it follows a similar trajectory and orbit.
Its trajectory would require a 6,000-year orbit around the Sun that would take it beyond the outer edges of the solar system – about 57 billion miles from the Sun.
Astronomers predict that Atlas and the Great Comet separated from a much larger comet born in the early days of the solar system.
If this lasts until it approaches the Sun, it may be a one-time hit as it could be completely expelled from the solar system after a slingshot around the Sun.
In the meantime, when it is dark, it will be visible halfway up in the north-northwest sky and potentially visible to the naked eye from April.
“ It will be fun over the next few weeks to watch comet ATLAS grow (and provide a nice distraction from the current state of the world), ” wrote Carl Hergenrother, an Arizona-based comet observer. “Here’s to good health and a clear sky!”
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SPATIAL ROCKS?
A asteroid is a large piece of rock left by collisions or the first solar system. Most are located between Mars and Jupiter in the main belt.
A comet is a rock covered with ice, methane and other compounds. Their orbits move them much further from the solar system.
A meteor what astronomers call a flash of light in the atmosphere when debris burns.
These debris themselves are known as meteorite. Most are so small that they are vaporized into the atmosphere.
If one of these meteorites arrives on Earth, it is called meteorite.
Meteors, meteorites and meteorites normally come from asteroids and comets.
For example, if the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, much of the debris burns in the atmosphere, forming a meteor shower.