Monday, 15 January 2018

Comet C/2016 A1 (PANSTARRS) makes its closest approach to the Earth.

Comet C/2016 A1 (PANSTARRS) will make its closest approach to the Earth on Wednesday 17 January 2018 reaching a distance of 4.40 AU from the Earth (4.40 times as far from us as the Sun, or 657 785 000 km). At this distance the comet will not be naked eye visible, having a magnitude of 16.37, which means it would require a good telescope to observe it, and then only in the Northern Hemisphere, as it is currently in the constellation of Lynx, which cannot be seen from south of the Equator.
Image of C/2016 A1 (PANSTARS) taken on 2 November 2017 from Balen in Belgium. Alfons Diepvens.

C/2016 A1 (PANSTARRS) was discovered on 1 January 2016 by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope. The name C/2016 A1 (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 first half of January 2016 (period 2016 A) and that it was discovered by the PANSTARRS telescope.
The orbit and current position of Comet C/2016 A1 (PANSTARRS) . The Sky Live 3D Solar System Simulator.

C/2016 A1  (PANSTARRS) has an unknown orbital period and a highly eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 121° to the plain of the Solar System, that brings it to 5.33 AU from the Sun at perihelion (533% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, slightly inside the orbit of Jupiter); with its aphelion (distance form the Sun at the furthest point in its orbit) being unknown.
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