Comet C/2019 Y4 (Atlas): an image (21 Feb. 2020)

Discovered at the end of last year, comet C/2019 Y4 (Atlas) could have a name you will hopefully remember: it could become bright enough in May to put a nice show up in the sky. Needless to say, we will keep an eye on it.

Comet C/2019 Y4 (Atlas): 21 Feb. 2020

Comet C/2019 Y4 (Atlas): 21 Feb. 2020

Soon after its discovery, comet C/2019 Y4 (Atlas): 21 Feb. 2020 gained a lot of attention, possibly being a fragment of Great Comet C/1844 Y1. Its orbit will bring it closer to the Sun than planet Mercury (about 38 millions of km) and it has the potential to become significantly bright. At the time of writing, it is a few magnitudes brighter than expected (a so-called outburst).

The image above comes from the average of 14, 300-seconds exposures, unfiltered, remotely collected with the “Elena” (PlaneWave 17″+Paramount ME+SBIG STL-6303E) robotic unit available at the Virtual Telescope Project. The robotic telescope tracked the apparent motion of comet C/2019 Y4, so stars left trails on the background. The image scale is 1.2″/pixel.

The sky was not perfect, but we can easily see a coma all around the bright false nucleus. While we hope to see this object by naked eye, we must keep in mind how brightness is hard to predict, when a comet is involved. To the point that Fred Whipple, one of the most famous comet researched, once said: “If you must bet, bet on horses – not on a comet.”

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