Approaching comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) rapidly brightening-- may be visible to naked eye soon

Approaching comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) rapidly brightening-- may be visible to naked eye soon

A newly-discovered comet named C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) is now crossing the orbit of Mars as it makes its way toward the Sun. The object has been brightening so rapidly since its discovery on December 28, 2019, that some astronomers believe it will be visible to the naked eye by the end of May 2020. It will pass only 0.25 AU from the Sun on May 31, 2020. 

ATLAS was named after the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System survey in Hawaii-- an astronomical early warning survey system designed to spot smaller, near-Earth objects a few days or weeks before they pass by Earth.

The object has a similar orbit as the Great Comet of 1844, making astronomers hypothesize that ATLAS may be a fragment of the said comet.

Since its discovery in the constellation of Ursa Major on December 28, 2019, the comet has been brightening at an almost unprecedented speed. 

"Comet ATLAS continues to brighten much faster than expected," said Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC. "Some predictions for its peak brightness now border on the absurd."

By March 17, ATLAS was magnitude +8.5 object -- more than 600 times brighter than what astronomers have anticipated. However, it is still invisible to the naked eye.

"This comet will eventually disappear into the glare of the Sun but until then should be a good binocular and maybe soon naked-eye comet for some folks. In these days of social isolation and telework, grabbing a pair of good astronomical binoculars is something I highly recommend," Karl Battams, NRL

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Image credit: Rolando Ligustri/CARA Project

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Image credit: Michael Jager/spaceweathergallery.com

A comet becomes brighter as it approaches the Sun because it burns at a more intense rate. However, it is impossible to forecast whether the object will remain intact in the course of its travel as most comets eventually burn up and dissipate.

"Right now the comet is releasing huge amounts of its frozen volatile gases," Battams said. "That's why it's brightening so fast."

"I'm still cautious about getting too excited, but it's holding up well at the moment," he said on March 23. "Folks predicting big negative Vmags are crazy, IMHO, but something around mag 0 is a possibility."

Image credit: CNEOS

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Image credit: Michael Jager, spaceweathergallery.com

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Image credit: Marek Harman, spaceweathergallery.com

ATLAS is predicted to reach its brightest by the end of May-- if the comet continues to light up at its current rate, it may become visible to the naked eye, assuming that the observer is in an area with low light pollution. At the brightest extreme, it could also be seen even during the daytime. 

"Comet McNaught (C/2006 P1) performed that very trick 13 years ago," said Dr. Tony Phillips of the SpaceWeather.com. "On January 13, 2007, it swooped past the Sun shining at magnitude -5. The absurdly-bright comet was visible at high noon with its tail jutting across the blue sky."

The Northern Hemisphere will be the best place to view the comet at its peak brightness. If it lives up to its potential, it could also put on a great show that has not seen since the 1997 Comet Hale-Bopp.

Although not everyone agrees, Battams thinks that ATLAS will fade rapidly before reaching the Sun... "My personal intuition is that Comet ATLAS is over-achieving, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it start to fade rapidly and possibly even disintegrate before reaching the sun," Battams said.

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Image credit: Scott Tucker, spaceweathergallery.com

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Image credit: Brian Ottum, spaceweathergallery.com

Featured image credit: Michael Jager, spaceweathergallery.com

Comments

Jamal Shrair 1 day ago

I sincerely believe that the prophecy of Nostradamus regarding the MABUS Comet will be fulfilled this summer. The MABUS Comet is ATLAS and soon will be visible to the naked eye. Astrology, in its broadest sense, is the search for human meaning in the sky; it seeks to understand general and specific human behavior through the influence of planets and other celestial objects. Astrological beliefs in correspondences between celestial observations and terrestrial events have influenced various aspects of human history, including world-views, language and many elements of social culture. The history of astrology begins in ancient Sumer (present-day Iraq). (Garraty & Gay, eds., The Columbia History of the World, Page 57). History itself begins there: This civilization dates back further than Egypt or China or India. Sumerian writings exist on clay tablets dating back to 3500 B.C. or earlier.’ (C. Leonard Wolley, The Sumerians, New York: W.W. Norton, 1965, Page 184). Astrology used to be an accurate science during the times of Sumerian civilization. Sumerian astrology tablets make up the first historical record of astrology. The Sumerians gave the world astrology. They are literally the oldest astrological documents. They named many of the constellations and defined the nature of numerous bodies in the solar system. The Sumerians taught the Babylonians astrology. Ptolemy and others then learned from the Babylonians. It was the Babylonians who established our system of divisions in the time of day, into hours, minutes and seconds, after the divisions of the Zodiac into signs, degrees, minutes and seconds. Ashurbanipal (688-626 B.C.) was one of the last Assyrian emperors. He made a great contribution to history, to humanity, and to the study of astrology by rescuing the ancient Sumerian culture, which was by then almost two thousand years old, and it had mostly vanished. However, the accurate knowledge of the Sumerians astrology was not revealed by the Assyrians or even by the Babylonians who were outstanding astronomers and astrologers. Nevertheless, Nostradamus was one of the best astrologers who possessed some of the knowledge of the ancient astrology. That is the reason why his prophecies were distinguished or unique compared to other seers. So, the question that I would like to ask, is the COVID-19 the start of the third world war prophesied by Nostradamus? In other words, is the COVID-19 the first stage in the rise of the so-called third antichrist? Nostradamus prediction: Prophet warned Italy of 'very great plague' - Is it coronavirus? https://www.express.co.uk/news/weird/1249539/Nostradamus-prediction-Italy-coronavirus-plague-prophecy-COVID19-latest-news

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