Saturday, 28 July 2018

Comet C/2017 T3 (Atlas) makes its closest approach to the Earth.

Comet C/2017 T3 (ATLAS) will make its closest approach to the Earth on Wednesday 1 August 2018 reaching a distance of 1.35 AU from the Earth (1.35 times as far from us as the Sun, or 202 152 000 km). At this distance the comet will not be naked eye visible, having a magnitude of 11.40, which means it would require a good telescope to observe it, and then preferably in the Southern Hemisphere, as it is currently in the constellation of Puppis, which cannot be seen clearly from too far north of the Equator.

 Image of C/2017 T3 (Atlas) taken on 23 October 2017 using the remotely operated iTelescope 21 Deep Space Telescope at  the New Mexico Skies Observatory in Mayhill, New Mexico. Image is a composite made of six 60 second exposure. The asteroid is indicated by the arrow. iTelescope/Marian Urbanic/Fotografický občasník.

C/2017 T3 (ATLAS) was discovered on 14 October 2017 by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) search program. The name C/2017 T3 (ATLAS) 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 third comet (comet 3) discovered in the first half of October 2017 (period 2017 T) and that it was discovered by the ATLAS program.

The orbit and current position of Comet C/2017 T3 (ATLAS). The Sky Live 3D Solar System Simulator.

C/2017 T3 (ATLAS) has an estimated orbital period of 51 600 years and a highly eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 88.1° to the plain of the Solar System, that brings it to 0.82 AU from the Sun at perihelion (82% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, considerably outside the orbit of Mars); to 2771 AU from the Sun at aphelion (2771 times as far from the Sun as the Earth or 92 times as far from the Sun as the planet Neptune, reaching the innermost part of the Oort Cloud.

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