Rockford Might Get A Good Look At The Christmas Comet This Weekend
It's been a pretty good couple of months for star-gazing in the Rockford area. We just finished up with the Geminid Meteor Showers last week, now we move on to what's sometimes referred to as The Christmas Comet.
The Comet's real, or better yet, bestowed name, is Comet Leonard, and Leonard is new to the neighborhood.
We Only Learned About Comet Leonard In January Of This Year
That photo above is an actual shot of Comet Leonard. There aren't that many photos to choose from, because the comet was only recently discovered. I mean very recently.
On January 3, 2021, American astronomer Gregory J. Leonard discovered a new comet at the Mount Lemmon Observatory in Arizona, USA. It was named C/2021 A1 (Leonard) – the letter “C” means “non-periodic comet”, and “2021 A1” indicates that it was the first comet discovered in the first half of January 2021.
Astronomers Think That Comet Leonard Will Be 2021's Best And Brightest Comet
That's a lot of pressure for a newbie. "Look kid, those people down there just found out that you exist. Now get out there and put on a show for 'em! Oh, and let's drop the Leonard thing. You need a splashier name, so let's go with...just spit-balling here...The Christmas Comet! The kids will love it!"
EarthSky.org says that the comet is currently heading sunward, toward its perihelion (closest point to the sun) on January 3rd, 2022. Comets are typically brightest around perihelion, according to those in the astronomical community. Comet Leonard has been in the morning sky, and will now become visible in the evening sky.
Here's When To Look For The Christmas Comet In The Rockford Area
The comet It will be closest to Earth this Sunday, December 12th, but you may be able to spot it in the days before and after, although the longer you wait, the more difficult comet Leonard will be to see before it leaves our solar system.
Patch.com points out that the comet comes closest to Earth, 21,687,279 miles away, at 9:54am Rockford time on Sunday, and morning twilight is the best time to see it.
Look at the eastern sky just before sunrise. You might want your binoculars or telescope if you have one, but if conditions are right, you should be able to pick it up using only your eyes.
Here are a few more tips on viewing the Christmas Comet: