Comet Atlas will pass close to Earth in May and will be a stellar show. It is the celestial body C / 2019 Y4 (ATLAS), first discovered on December 28, 2019. Although astronomers noticed it rather weak at that time, it has been gaining light ever since and is on its way to becoming one of the brightest comets to grace our skies, comparable to the fantastic 1997 Hale-Bopp.
“Right now, the comet is releasing large amounts of frozen volatile gases,” Karl Battams of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. told SpaceWeatherArchive (SWA). “That is why it is shining so bright,” he said. The last time a comet put on a similar show was in March 2013 thanks to PanSTARRS.
When will it pass near Earth?
Its closest approach to the Sun, the perihelion, will take place on May 31st and will pass 37.8 million kilometers from the star. If its activity continues, it will be possible to contemplate the wake of the comet for several weeks. It will be visible after sunset until completely disappearing. According to experts, this Wednesday the comet is crossing the Big Dipper constellation and is moving slowly.