- Comet Leonard will make its closest approach to Earth tonight, at a distance of about 35 million kilometres from our planet.
- Currently, astronomers have observed over 3700 comets in our Solar System and Leonard is a typical comet going around the Sun at a speed of about 47 kilometres per second.
About Leonard comet
- Leonard is a long-period comet from the extreme reaches of the solar system.
- At its farthest point from the Sun, the aphelion distance stretches to a whopping 3,700 AU (1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and the Sun).
- It has an orbital period of 80,000 years.
- That, however, is going to change.
- According to current calculations, the comet will be ejected from the solar system after passing the Sun, bound for interstellar space and never to return.
- It is likely to pass through another star system light-years away, just like the interstellar objects 1I/'Omuamua and 2I/Borisov recently passed through our solar system.
- The comet, which was located around the heart of NGC 4631 (better known as the Whale Galaxy at the time) was spotted by Gregory Leonard in the images taken from the Mt. Lemmon Observatory in Arizona.
- The discovery came in January 2021, exactly a year before its predicted closest approach to the Sun on January 3, 2022.
- Comets are small celestial bodies that orbit the Sun.
- Primarily made of dust and ice, they are thought to be remnants of the formation of the Solar System.
- Comets are thought to come from 2 places in the Solar System:
- The Oort Cloud is a region almost a light year from the Sun.
- Oort Cloud comets have very long orbital periods, spanning several million years, and are known as long-period comets.
- The Kuiper Belt is a region beyond the orbit of the planet Neptune.
- Kuiper Belt comets tend to have a short orbital period, usually around 200 years and are therefore also known as short-period comets.