Tuesday 1 December 2020

Comet C/2019 N1 (ATLAS) comes to perihelion.

Comet C/2019 N1 (ATLAS) reaches its perihelion (the closest point on its orbit to the Sun) at 7.25 pm GMT on Tuesday 1 December 2020, when it will be approximately 1.70 AU from the Sun (i.e. 170% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, and some way outside the orbit of Mars). At this time the comet will be 2.41 AU from the Earth, in the constellation of Virgo, having a magnitude of 13.96, making it impossible to spot without a fairly good telescope.

Comet C/2019 N1 (ATLAS) imaged from Balen in Belgium on 19 April 2020. The comet is the point at the centre of the image, the slightly elongate objects are stars, which have moved over the course of the 14 minute exposure, during which the telescope was focused on the comet. Alfons Diepvens.

C/2019 N1 (ATLAS) was discovered on 5 July 2019 by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) search program. The name C/2019 K1 (ATLAS) implies that it is a non-periodic comet (C/), that it was the first comet (comet 1) discovered in the first half of July 2019 (period 2019 N) and that it was discovered by the ATLAS program.

The orbital trajectory and current position of C/2019 N1 (ATLAS). JPL Small Body Database.

Comet C/2019 N1 (ATLAS) ia estimated to complete one orbit every 1.34 million years on an eccentric orbit tilted at 82.4° to the plane of the Solar System, that takes it from 1.70 AU from the Sun (170% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 24 268 AU from the Sun (24 268 times as far from the Sun as the Earth, and more than 800 times the distance at which the planet Neptune orbits the Sun, but only clipping the inner part of the Oort Cloud). This means that C/2019 N1 (ATLAS) last visited the Inner Solar System during the middle Pleistocene. As a comet with an orbital period of more than 200 years it is considered to be a Long Period Comet.

See also...

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Facebook.

Follow Sciency Thoughts on Twitter.