Thursday 3 May 2018

Comet C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) reaches perihelion.

Comet C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) will reach its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun) slightly after 2.00 pm on Wednesday 9 May 2018, when it will be approximately 2.60 AU from the Sun (i.e. 260% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter). The comet will be in the constellation of Auriga seen from the Earth, though it will not be visible without a fairly good telescope.

Comet C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS), close to the star Gamma Tauri on 5 January 2018. Chris Schur/Sky and Telescope.

C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) was discovered on 7 September 2016 by the University of Hawaii's PANSTARRS telescope. The name C/2016 R2 (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 second comet (comet 2) discovered in the first half of September 2016 (period 2016 R) and that it was discovered by the PANSTARRS telescope.

 The orbit and current position of Comet C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS). The Sky Live 3D Solar System Simulator.

C/2016 R2 (PANSTARRS) has an estimated orbital period of 20 800 years and a highly eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 58.2° to the plain of the Solar System, that brings it to 2.60 AU from the Sun at perihelion (260% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, considerably outside the orbit of Mars); to 1510 AU from the Sun at aphelion (1510 times as far from the Sun as the Earth or 50 times as far from the Sun as the planet Neptune, reaching the innermost part of the Oort Cloud.

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