Asteroids and comets coming into view is always a treat, but “Christmas Comet” Leonard is in its own league. Speeding into view last weekend, there are some wild videos out of it kicking into high gear.
The “Christmas Comet” came into view about a week ago and has brightened significantly since then. According to Forbes, its brightness magnitude is even higher than expected, possibly reaching magnitude 2.5. At that magnitude, simply looking into the sky is enough to see the comet in all its glory. Karl Battams, a computational science doctor at the United States Naval Research Laboratory, recently tweeted some processed footage, and Leonard is active, to say the least.
“So yeah, comet Leonard has definitely kicked into a new gear over the past couple of days,” Battams shared. “Check out that tail action! These are highly-processed images from our @USNRL SECCHI/HI-2 camera @NASASun STEREO-A on Dec 14.”
Battams explained what you’re seeing in a bit more detail with a follow-up tweet. “All the flickery stuff down the bottom is excess stray light from a planet, I believe. And coming from the left you can just about make out waves of solar outflow sweeping through the scene. (These aren’t our prettiest data, but you can only play the cards you’re dealt).”
It may not be the “prettiest” data, but it’s still crazy how much movement the comet is exhibiting. While most of the opportune times to see it have passed, we may get a Christmas miracle on December 25. Forbes states we may be able to see it below Venus after sunset. Though it will be fairly low on the horizon, provided weather is favorable, you should be able to view it.
Megacomet 12 Times the Size of Mount Everest Is Coming Toward Earth
Seeing Leonard around Christmas time is an unexpected delight, but another comet with serious history behind it is heading toward us too. To be specific, a megacomet which spans 12 times the size of Mount Everest is heading in our direction.
The Daily Beast spoke to several researchers about the comet, which has significant space history. University of Arizona comet expert Amy Mainzer succinctly stated “In essence, it’s a time machine.” The megacomet is a return visitor from collisions of space rocks that created the Earth and almost everything else in our solar system. Additionally, its makeup is largely unchanged from that time millions of years ago.
Comet co-discoverer Pedro Bernardinelli expressed his excitement saying, “The story told by the comet would tell us of what existed in the solar system billions of years ago. And we can use that to understand the things we see today elsewhere in the solar system.”
Before you get too excited though, its close approach won’t happen until 2031, meaning it’s still almost a decade away. Nonetheless, having something that literally made history coming close to us is incredible.