- Comet ATLAS Continues to Brighten, Now With An Impressive Tail, And It Could Put on Quite a Dazzling Show Next Month
by Paul Dorian, https://wattsupwiththat.com/
According to my observations, the tail of Comet ATLAS is 1.2 degrees long,” reports Gerald Rhemann who recorded this image on Friday, March 27th from his backyard observatory in Eichgraben, Lower Austria (courtesy spaceweather.com)
About a month ago, Comet ATLAS was very difficult to find, but it is now as bright as an 8th magnitude star and has generated quite an impressive tail. This brightness is hundreds of times brighter than astronomers predicted when it discovered the comet several months ago. While it is still too dim to see with the unaided eye, it is becoming an increasingly easy target for backyard telescopes. The comet is expected to become much brighter by the time it sweeps by the sun closer than Mercury during late May, it could even rival Venus in the evening sky.
Comet ATLAS was discovered by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) and has been given the nickname of ATLAS, but its official name is C/2019 Y4. ATLAS is an asteroid impact early warning system being developed by the University of Hawaii and is funded by NASA. It consists of two telescopes, 100 miles apart, which automatically scan the whole sky several times every night looking for moving objects. ATLAS will provide one day’s warning for a 30-kiloton “town killer,” a week for a 5-megaton “city killer,” and three weeks for a 100-megaton “county killer”. So far, ATLAS has discovered 427 near-earth asteroids and as many as 37 comets included the one now being referred to as Comet ATLAS.