Also known as C/2021 A, the Comet Leonard will be visible all month, and early mornings are your best time to see it. But you’ll probably need binoculars.
We’ve had some pretty good celestial phenomena up in the skies over the last few years. We had the “unicorn” meteor storm in 2019, the much better Quadrantid meteor shower in early 2020, and the Comet NEOWISE passing through in the summer of 2020.
Now 2021 is getting a pretty good show too, as KRON4 reports that the “once-in-a-lifetime” Comet Leonard is now visible, and it’s been described by EarthSky as “likely to be 2021’s best comet, and its brightest comet by year’s end.”
Named for astronomer Greg Leonard, who first spotted it back in January, Comet Leonard has probably been blazing toward our Sun for 35,000 years, going 158,084 miles per hour, after being formed 4.5 billion years ago — and whatever loop it may be on, Earthlings aren't going to see it ever again.
Welcome to the Earth! C2021 A1 (Leonard)— HARLOCK｜harlock999.eth (@susanoo_harlock) December 5, 2021
この彗星は地球を通過後、二度と戻ってくることはありません。#astrophotography #CometLeonard #C2021/A1 #レナード彗星 #彗星 #君の名は pic.twitter.com/2RJ1Wfbs70
Leonard’s technical name is C/2021 A, and December will be its most visible month here in the northern hemisphere. “The comet is currently heading sunward, toward its perihelion (closest point to the sun) on January 3, 2022,” EarthSky says. “Comets are typically brightest around perihelion. Comet Leonard has been in the morning sky, and it just passed the beautiful globular star cluster M3.”
This fellow in the video above is Pat Prokop of Savannah, Georgia, who's been posting some terrific pictures and video (because he has a Orion EON ED triplet apochromatic refractor telescope). He got great shots when the comet passed that above-mentioned M3 star cluster on Friday. “The comet seemed a little bit brighter this morning, about a Magnitude 6 now, a week ago it was 8.5," h said in a December 3 video. "So it is getting brighter. However, I don’t think it’s going to become a naked eye comet. It might. But it will be very dim in the morning sky. And after December 12, it will start reappearing in the evening sky, below the planet Venus.”
People from the northern hemisphere, there are only 5 mornings left to observe comet leonard (it will get brighter this weekend) so be quick! Grab your binoculars and camera’s. And if you have any questions, feel free to ask!— C/2021 A1 (Comet Leonard) (@Comet2021a1) December 7, 2021
A sort of “Comet Leonard fan account” on Twitter points out that there are only five more mornings of comet viewing. Griffith Observatory astronomer Ed Krupp tells NPR, "The comet is in the early morning sky right at the moment, and that means getting up very early, probably around 5 a.m. or so and looking more or less to the northeast." Leonard is expected to be less bright when it moves into its evening phase on December 12, but that may change.
Pretty excited to have captured a meteor beside @Comet2021a1 last night!— Justin Anderson Aurora Chasing (@AuroraJAnderson) December 4, 2021
This is a deepscape image at 85mm.
Single 30s, f/3.5, ISO 2000
20 x ISO 12,800, f/3.5, 4s pic.twitter.com/VTJapnV1lW
En nog maar eentje van Komeet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) van 07-12-2021.— Rutger (@busrutger) December 7, 2021
39x60sec gestackt op de Komeet en op de sterren met APP en samengevoegd in Photoshop. Volgens Michael Jäger heeft de komeet inmiddels een Coma van 10” en een staart van 8° @helgavanleur @KNVWeerSterren @Comet2021a1 pic.twitter.com/fh9OGDti6p
“Comets are notoriously difficult to predict in terms of brightness and visibility,” a NASA spokesperson told KRON4. “Comet Leonard is predicted to peak at a brightness that will probably require binoculars to spot it. There’s a chance it could be bright enough to see with the unaided eye, but again, with comets, you really never know.”
Screenshot: HeavenlyBackyardAstronomy via Youtube