Comet approach predicted to be brighter than stars in the sky: ScienceAlert

Write down the newly discovered comet by the drawn-out name of C/2023 A3 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS): When it approaches the Sun and our planet, it can shine brighter in the Earth’s night sky than many stars.

It will not be the comet’s closest approach to the Sun, or perihelion Until September 28, 2024before reaching its closest point to Earth a few weeks later On the 13th of Octoberso you have plenty of time to organize blankets and telescopes.

Although the estimates are very tentative, astronomers expect a brightness of 0.7 at the comet’s perihelion. Given that lower numbers on the magnitude scale represent brighter objects, b Betelgeuse In the constellation Orion is about 0.42, f Scorpion heart – The brightest star in the constellation Scorpius – slightly dimmer at a touch.

At its closest point to Earth, the comet can reach an even more dazzling magnitude of -0.2, making it one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Add in the effects of forward scattering, where comet dust and ice reflect light from the Sun, and we Its magnitude may reach -5.

Unless his rendezvous with a star doesn’t tear him to pieces before he swings back on his way to the outer solar system, that is.

Pictures showing the comet’s location in space. (Philip Romanoff / EarthSky)

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the brightness of a comet is more diffuse than that of stars, as we’re talking about a moving (potentially) tailed object, rather than a single light source.

The best moments to watch C/2023 A3 should be in the days before or after October 13th. Will appear In the dawn skies near the constellations Hydra and Crater, though, be warned, getting a good view in the sunrise glow can be challenging.

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C/2023 A3 was first detected by astronomers on January 9, 2023, from the Purple Mountain Observatory in China. It was then thought lost before the team picked it up again at the Asteroid Terrestrial-Effect Last Alert System (ATLAS) telescope in South Africa, on February 22, 2023.

As a result, the institute got both institute names in its name (“tsuchinshan” being Mandarin for “purple mountain”). The letter C is used For comets on an open trajectory (likely to escape the Sun’s orbit), 2023 is the year of discovery, and A3 shows that this is the third discovery in the first half of January (B is the second half of January, and B is the first half of February ., and so on and so on).

Comet trajectory diagram
The exact orbit of C/2023 A3 cannot be predicted. (University of Arizona/CCS/D Rankin)

Besides its remarkable brightness, C/2023 A3 is traveling particularly fast: about 180,610 miles or 290,664 kilometers per hour, rounding along an extended lap of the solar system, calculated to take about 80,660 years. At the moment, it is located somewhere between the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter.

Stargazers should start getting good views of the comet in June 2024, though there’s a lot of (educated) guesswork involved here: These celestial bodies can be unpredictable in the way their paths evolve, and scientists know little about their properties. This comet.

while opportunities good That we’ll see C/2023 A3 bright in the sky next year, there’s not much in the way of comparable comet data to base the calculations on. As such, astronomers can’t say for sure whether the poor old ball of rock and ice will remain intact long enough to make an appointment with the sun.

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Although uncertain, it’s an exciting prospect for astronomers, and we’ll likely hear a lot about C/2023 A3 over the coming months.

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