Click to: riverhouses.org/2020-comet-atlas
We wrote last month about Comet ATLAS C2019/Y4, a new comet discovered at the very end of December that had the potential to put on a great show over the next few weeks:
Some astronomers conjectured that ATLAS might even become a “Great Comet,” easily visible to the naked eye for many days. But now, alas, it appears that Comet ATLAS is breaking up.
NASA’s APOD astronomers explain what we’re seeing in the image above:
“Cruising through the inner solar system, Comet ATLAS C2019/Y4 has apparently fragmented. Multiple separate condensations within its diffuse coma are visible in this telescopic close-up from April 12, composed of frames tracking the comet’s motion against trailing background stars. Discovered at the end of December 2019, this comet ATLAS showed a remarkably rapid increase in brightness in late March. Northern hemisphere comet watchers held out hope that it would become a bright naked-eye comet as it came closer to Earth in late April and May. But fragmenting ATLAS is slowly fading in northern skies. The breakup of comets is not uncommon though. This comet ATLAS is in an orbit similar to the Great Comet of 1844 (C/1844 Y1) and both may be fragments of a single larger comet.“ (apod.nasa.gov)
So it looks like this “Great Comet of 2020” may fail us. But don’t despair. The solar system is a big place, and there are many more comets to discover — perhaps your young astronomers will one day be among their discoverers.
What other celestial sights and astronomical apparitions have you been examining in your homeschool this Leo Term? 🔭
❡ Star bright: If you’d like some light and easy homeschool astronomy lessons, download and print a copy of our annual River Houses Star Calendar (riverhouses.org/calendars) and follow along with us month by month as we make twelve heavenly friends-for-life over the course of the year. 🌟
❡ Watchers of the skies: This is one of our regular Homeschool Astronomy posts. Add your name to our River Houses mailing list (riverhouses.org/newsletter) and get great homeschool teaching ideas delivered right to your mailbox every week. 🔭