Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) reaches its perihelion.

Comet C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) will reach its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun)  on Wednesday 27 August 2014, though it will not be visible until the end of September, when it will become possible for astronomers armed with binoculars to observe it from the Southern Hemisphere until February. It will reach its brightest in mid-October, when it will be in the constellation of Puppis. It will not come close to the Earth at any point. 

Image of C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) taken on 31 May 2014. Damian Peach/Sky & Telescope.

C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) was discovered on 17 May 2012 by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope. The name C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) implies that it is a non-periodic comet (C/) (all comets are, strictly speaking, periodic since they all orbit the Sun, but those with periods longer than 200 years are considered to be non-periodic), that it was the first comet (comet 1) discovered in the second half of May 2012 (period 2012 K), and that it was discovered by the PANSTARRS telescope.

Star chart showing the position of C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) in the sky as seen from the Southern Hemisphere from July 2014 to April 2015. In the sky.

C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) has an unknown orbital period and a highly eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 142° to the plain of the Solar System, that brings it to 1.05 AU from the Sun at perihelion (105% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun) to 120 AU from the Sun at aphelion, which is 120 times as far from the Sun as the Earth, four times as far from the Sun as the planet Neptune, and 2.4 times as far from the Sun as the outer limit of the Kuiper Belt, but still within the inner Oort Cloud.

The path of C/2012 K1 (PANSTARRS) through the inner Solar System. JPL Small Body Database Browser.

See also...

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Comet C/2013 UQ4 (Catalina) will reach its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun) on Sunday 6 July 2014. The comet will be at its closet to Earth four days later, slightly before midday on...

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