Saturday 8 January 2022

Comet C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) passed the Earth, approaches perihelion.

Comet C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) made its closest approach to the Earth on Friday 7 January 2022, reaching a distance of 2.58 AU from the Earth (258% of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, or 386 096 000 km), and will reach perihelion (its closest approach to the Sun) on Sunday 9 January, when it will be 3.55 AU (531 684 000 km) from the Sun. At this distance the comet will be not naked eye visible, having a magnitude about 12.3, comparable to that of the moons of Mars, and therefore not really visible to amateur astronomers without fairly good equipment. The comet is currently in the Constellation of Gemini.

Comet C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) imaged on 5 October 2021 from Mayhill, New Mexico. Pepe Chambó/Sky & Telescope.
C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) was discovered on 10 June 2019 by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) search program. The name C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) implies that it is a comet (C/), that it was the third comet (3) discovered in the first half of June 2019 (period 2019 L) and that it was discovered by the ATLAS program.
The orbital trajectory and current position of C/2019 L3 (ATLAS). Astro van Buitenen.
C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) is a Parabolic Comet, which is to say a comet that has been disrupted from an orbit in the Oort Cloud, and to be passing through the Inner Solar System on a parabolic orbit that will probably not bring it back again. This parabolic trajectory tilted at an angle of 48.4° to the plain of the Solar System, that will bring it in to 3.55 AU from the Sun at perihelion (i.e. 3.55 times as far from the Sun as the planet Earth, or more than twice as far from the Sun as the planet Mars) on Sunday 9 January 2022 (two days after its closest approach to the Earth).
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