FP TrendingDec 08, 2021 17:20:53 IST
Astronomy enthusiasts will get a limited window to view the brightest comet this year. The Leonard comet, also known as Comet C/2021 A1 will pass by Earth on 12 December.
The Leonard comet was first discovered in January this year around the planet Jupiter. On 24 November, it was spotted at the heart of the Whale Galaxy, also known as NGC 4631. On 12 December, the comet will pass by Earth at a distance of 21.7 million miles (34.9 million km).
As per SkyandTelescope, the comet is passing the earth after a 35,000-year pilgrimage from the outer solar system. Comet Leonard will reach perihelion (closest approach to the Sun) on January 03, 2022.
The comet is travelling at a speed of 158,084 miles per hour or 71 kilometres per second, but due to its distance from the Earth, it will appear as a slow-moving object to observers.
Stargazers may spot the bright comet for a couple of hours before sunrise low in the east-northeast sky through the constellations Coma Berenices, Serpens Caput and Boötes. While there is doubt about whether the comet will be visible to the naked eye, The Virtual Telescope Project will be livestreaming the celestial event from its Rome observatory.
As per CNN, Greg Leonard is the first astronomer to discover the comet. He spotted the celestial object in January at the Mount Lemmon Observatory. At the time, the celestial object was 149.565 million kilometres from the Sun.
Why brightest comet this month?
The reason behind the brightness of the comet could be its orbit itself, according to news reports. According to the astronomers, Comet Leonard, which is travelling in a closed orbit, probably visited the territory of the sun about 70,000 years ago.
As the comet was far away from sun rays for so long so, gases like carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide could have frozen into it. The gases are now vapourising and giving it a high brightness.