See comet Leonard before it leaves the solar system

If you’ve looked up at the sky at the right time and in the right direction over the past 10 days, you may have caught a glimpse of Comet Leonard, which is named after the University researcher. from Arizona, Gregory Leonard.

Leonard first discovered the comet, also known as Comet C / 2021 A1, almost a year ago – somewhat accidentally – as part of the Catalina Sky Survey project. Here is how he describes it.

“The Catalina Sky Survey is a NASA-funded project at the University of Arizona. We are tasked with discovering and tracking near-Earth asteroids, which we do very successfully and productively on most clear nights of the year, ”Leonard said.

Comet Leonard is of course a comet, not an asteroid. But it was on a path that would bring him close to Earth. It is actually one of the 13 comets that Leonard discovered and, therefore, bears his name, but it is one of the most unique and, as he puts it, special. In fact, it’s his favorite.

“Finding this comet, for me, is like hitting the cosmic jackpot,” Leonard said. “It’s very rare that we have comets that come close to naked eye visibility.”

Leonard said the 12 other comets that bear his name, along with most other discoveries by astronomers around the world, cannot be seen with the naked eye. This will soon be the case for this Comet Leonard, now that it has been spinning past Earth at 44 miles per second and heading towards Venus. It is on its way to the sun, and from there possibly out of our solar system. That doesn’t mean you still can’t find it.

“My recommendation would be to step out of the dazzling city and town lights… [use] binoculars, preferably… or a telescope… use Venus as a guide, ”Leonard said.

Leonard added that if you can’t go out and see the comet for yourself, there are some awesome photos of it that can give you a good idea of ​​what it looks like.

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