At the end of last year, on December 28, astronomers from ATLAS – acronym for Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System -, an observatory located in Hawaii focused on the detection of asteroids, identified something different. Scientists discovered a comet that was baptized with the acronym C / 2019 Y4, but that, at the time, did not arouse much interest. After all, in addition to not being on a collision course with us (whew!), The object was extremely “faded” and, therefore, would go practically unnoticed by our sides. Only that changed …
When it was detected, the comet was almost 440 million kilometers away from the Sun, in the vicinity of the Ursa Major constellation, and astronomers calculated that it was almost 400,000 times less bright than the stars on the threshold of visibility with the naked eye here on Earth. Very dark – and dull!
However, the fact that the comet – which has been called ATLAS – is not particularly “spectacular” has not made astronomers give up on keeping an eye on it. It is normal that, as these stars approach the Sun, they will become brighter, and it was expected that this would happen with this one when it reached its maximum approximation of 37.8 million kilometers from the star, which should occur in the end of May.
But the interesting thing is that ATLAS, from 2 weeks ago, decided to start to shine and, at the moment, it is 600 times brighter than what had been predicted. With that, “without grace”, the comet started to generate a lot of expectations among astronomers and everyone is anxious to check if the star will give a show or if he has any more surprises reserved for the next weeks.
This is because, in addition to the possibility that the C / 2019 Y4 will provide a true celestial spectacle, it may happen that the comet simply goes back to reducing the glare and just making its passage without much ado. On the other hand, if it kept up the pace of brightness, by the end of May, the star would become as bright as Venus in the sky.
Interestingly, C / 2019 Y4 follows an orbit almost identical to that of another star that has caused astonishment in the past – the “Great Comet of 1844”. Like other space rock, ATLAS presents a trajectory that takes you to the ends of the Solar System, more than 90 billion kilometers away from the Sun, and on a journey that takes about 6 thousand years to complete around of the star. In fact, astronomers suspect that both the C / 2019 Y4 and the 1844 star may be part of a larger comet that has fragmented.
It is worth mentioning that astronomers are very anxious to watch a celestial spectacle provided by a comet, since the last to offer us an event visible to the naked eye of the Earth was Hale-Bopp, in 1997. But, responding to what possibly is one of your biggest doubts now … Will you be able to observe C / 2019 Y4 do Brasil?
For people in the Northern Hemisphere, the most favorable period to accompany the ticket will be from late March to April, with the likelihood of attending a more beautiful show than the Southern Hemisphere crowd – who will be able to watch the ticket in May, especially during the week starting on the 28th and then from the 15th of June. Make a note in the calendar and prepare your telescope or binoculars!