Comet treat for local stargazers

James Kon

Stargazers in the Sultanate are in for a treat as Comet C/2021 A1 Leonard, the brightest comet of the year, is making an appearance this month.

In the wee hour of yesterday, the Astronomical Society of Brunei Darussalam (PABD) captured an image of Comet C/2021 A1 Leonard, sporting a green coma with an extended dust tail.

The comet, pictured from Tutong District, is currently at magnitude 7.

According to Minor Planet Centre (MPC), IAU, Senior Research Specialist at Mount Lemmon Observatory Greg J Leonard reported the discovery of a comet in the images taken by Mt Lemmon Survey (G96) telescope in 4 co-added 30s exposures on January 3, 2021.

He reported a condensed 10’ coma and 5’ broad tail extending towards position angle 250-270 deg.

Comet (C/2021 A1) Leonard pictured by Astronomical Society of Brunei Darussalam (PABD)

The Astronomical Society of Brunei Darussalam (PABD) said Comet Leonard will get brighter as it passes closest to Earth on December 13, 2021.

In the coming weeks, the comet is expected to be seen with the naked eye in the morning sky, moving at a distance of 35 million kilometres from Earth (between orbit of Venus and Earth).

On December 4, Comet Leonard will be in constellation Bootes, rising about two hour before sunrise in Brunei Darussalam. By this date, the celestial visitor should be an easy target using binoculars at dawn.

Comet Leonard’s closest approach to Earth will happen on December 13 at a distance of 0.233997 Astronomical Units (35,005,384 kilometres). It will be exceptionally bright. From December 12 to 14, observation will be a challenge as the comet will be hidden by the glaring daylight.

On December 15, it will become visible in the early evening sky after sunset, and on December 17, there will be a chance to spot it just below Venus in the evening sky.