A dazzling green comet is set to light up the night sky this month as it passes Earth for the first time in 70,000 years.
The newly discovered Comet Leonard will likely become the brightest comet of the year following its long journey into the inner Solar System. It’s expected to be at its brightest and closest to Earth on December 12th (34.9 million km).
Catalogued as C/2021, Comet Leonard was discovered on January 3 by Senior research specialist Greg Leonard at the Mt. Lemmon Observatory. What was initially a faint, distant speck has soon inched closer to the Sun and Earth.
“I saw an object that was definitely real. It was tracking across four images against the background stars which appear stationary,” Leonard told Inverse .
The comet has a green tail due to its icy rock interior heating up the closer it gets to the sun. Once teal, it means the comet is warm and contains plenty of diatomic carbon, and the potential for it to break up is at its highest.
While the comet is visible right now across the world – unless you’re in Antarctica, according to astronomer Ed Krupp, you will require binoculars or a telescope to see it.
“The comet will just be about half the width of a clenched fist to the left” of Arcturus, Krupp said. “You might spot it with the unaided eye, but more likely, you’re going to need binoculars [or] a telescope.”