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#astronomy See Comet ATLAS within the night sky – Astronomy Now

November 19, 2020 - Comment

It’s proving to be a particular 12 months for comets, with the astronomical gods wanting down favourably on us in these unusual occasions. With the reminiscence nonetheless robust of the spectacular Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), which completely dominated final summer season’s observing scene, Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) is now within the late-evening sky among the


It’s proving to be a particular 12 months for comets, with the astronomical gods wanting down favourably on us in these unusual occasions. With the reminiscence nonetheless robust of the spectacular Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), which completely dominated final summer season’s observing scene, Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) is now within the late-evening sky among the many vivid stars of Orion and is vivid sufficient to be considered by means of a pair of binoculars from a dark-sky website.

Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) passes just a few levels west of the Orion Nebula (Messier 42) on eight November. Picture: Michael Jaeger.

Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) was found on 27 June 2020 by the Asteroid Terrestrial-Affect Final Alert System (ATLAS), primarily based on the Hawaiian islands. One other comet discovery by the programme, Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), briefly supplied the thrilling prospect of a naked-eye comet final spring earlier than it was destroyed by the Solar’s large and unyielding gravitational forces.

This time round although, at present’s ATLAS has already handed by means of perihelion (closest level to the Solar), on 25 October, and survived intact and in positive fettle to supply potential binocular visibility in a darkish sky. Over the summer season months the comet was too far south to view from UK shores, because it tracked by means of Sculptor and Formax. Then, throughout October, it took a northward flip into Lepus and handed into mighty Orion originally of November. On 14 November it was at its closest to Earth, passing us at a distance of 53.6 million kilometres (33.three million miles).

Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) tracks by means of northern Orion and Taurus earlier than coming into Auriga for a detailed conjunction with sensible Capella (alpha [α] Aurigae) as the start of the brand new 12 months. AN Graphic by Greg Smye-Rumsby.

Presently, Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) is shining at magnitude +7.eight to +eight.zero, round its predicted peak brightness, and reveals a big, diffuse coma of round 10 to 15 arcminutes, equating to a bodily diameter of over 300,000 kilometres. A brief tail has been reported immersed inside its greenish coma.

Visually, it seems very diffuse and is hard to identify from light-polluted areas. Away from main sources of sunshine air pollution, a small telescope ought to present the comet with out an excessive amount of bother. The Moon section (new on 15 November) is beneficial till across the begin of the final week of the month, when it reveals a swelling gibbous section on the best way to full Moon on 30 November.

Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) had simply entered the southern constellation of Eridanus by 13 September 2020. NGC 1365, an excellent barred spiral galaxy and a resident of neighbouring Fornax, is pictured to the decrease proper. Picture: José J. Chambó www.cometografia.es.

The comet is constant to trace northwards by means of northern Orion, passing a few levels west of magnitude +three.four Meissa (lambda [λ] Orionis) on its manner out of the constellation. Northernmost components of Orion are properly up within the south-eastern sky by 10pm GMT, and transit the southern meridian (culminate) at about 1.30am from London, at which period the comet achieves a wholesome altitude of round 45 levels.

By the evening of 23/24 November, Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) enters Taurus, the Bull, and its continued northward movement takes it simply half a level west of magnitude +1.6 Elnath (beta [β] Tauri), the star that marks the tip of the Bull’s northern horn, on three/four December.

Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) imaged on 27 September 2020 because it buzzed NGC 1531 in Eridanus, a barred spiral, popularly often known as Haley’s Coronet Galaxy, which is interacting with the dwarf galaxy NGC 1531. Picture: José J. Chambó www.cometografia.es.

The comet’s light-curve as of 17 November reveals visible and digital scatter of round two magnitudes centred round magnitude +eight. If Comet C/2020 M3 (ATLAS) maintains its predicted gradual fade, then it ought to shine at round magnitude +9 originally of December.

Judging by present ranges of exercise, don’t anticipate this model of ATLAS to be wherever close to as thrilling as Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), however respectable comets like this will not be that frequent so when one does seem don’t miss your probability to see it.



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