April is a fun month despite the fact that we are stuck inside our houses. There’s so much going on, and Atlas is one of the things you don’t want to miss. The giant comet is set to brighten the sky around 29-30 April. According to experts, you’d be able to see it without any special equipment.
On March 18, Michael Jäger “caught it” (C/2019 Y4 ATLAS). He even captured the bright green hue surrounding the comet. It occurred as a result of diatomic carbon C2.
Atlas was first discovered in December. The gaseous pocket around the comet reached a diameter of 447,387 miles. How amazing is that?
If you was trying to see it on Dec. 28, you probably needed a telescope to see it. However, it became really bright, you could see it with binoculars. Of course, the comet is not a threat to Planet Earth. It’s 72 million miles away, so don’t worry.
Atlas got its name after the system that detected it – the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert system. It’s a robotic astronomic survey and early warning system based in Hawaii.
The brightness of the comet has increased 4,000-fold, and experts believe we’d be able to see it without any equipment by the end of April.
“Right now the comet is releasing huge amounts of its frozen volatiles (gases), that’s why it is brightening so fast,” Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC said.
“As they get closer to the sun they gas off this material and we get this amazing display. It’s already at a level of brightness that you can see through binoculars — this beautiful greenish halo around it and a bit of development of the tail.”
Astronomer Matthijs Burgmeijer notes that if Atlas becomes righter, it will be the most brilliant comet ever known to mankind. But, he also adds that “comets are notoriously unpredictable.”
Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University said by the end of April, Atlas “could look really, really stunning.”
Let’s not forget that comets are volatile, and experts can’t predict the exact development of events. Comets are only visible if their ice remains untouched. They also need to have a big nucleus packed with frozen gas.
Comets that run out of gas tend to disappear on their trajectory to the Sun. according to most experts, Atlas will break before reaching its brightest point from planet Earth. Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC shares the same opinion.
“What is approaching the sun now, is a modest-size piece of cometary ice and dust with a large freshly exposed portion of surface; one that’s never seen the sun, such that it reacts to sunlight similar in the manner of an Oort Cloud comet like Comet Kohoutek did back in ’73,” comet expert John Bortle said.
“Intrinsically it is probably several magnitudes fainter than we currently assume it to be and may, or may not, be large enough to survive perihelion passage.”
Astronomers Quanzhi Ye (University of Maryland) and Qicheng Zhang (Caltech) checked out the photos from April 2nd and April 5th. They believe that the appearance of Atlas’ core has changed from star-like to elongated. According to them, the change is “consistent with a sudden decline or cessation of dust production, as would be expected from a major disruption of the nucleus.”
I.A. Steele from Liverpool John Moores University led a team of astronomers who confirmed the discovery. If Atlas lasts a bit, it will be visible from the North-Northwest sky.
“It’s going to be fun the next few weeks watching Comet ATLAS develop (and provide a nice distraction from the current state of the world),” Carl Hergenrother, an Arizona-based comet observer, explained. “Here’s to good health and clear skies!”
Recent reports suggest that the comet broke into pieces. Experts have made a lot of pictures of the object breaking up. There are also pictures from a crowdsourced project using telescopes made by Unistellar.