Comet ATLAS might become the brightest to grace the sky in years
The comet is glowing 600 times brighter than scientists predicted — but it might burn up before it reaches the Sun.
WASHINGTON — Comet ATLAS, also known as C/2019 Y4, is growing brighter at a surprising rate as it hurtles toward the Sun.
Space.com reports that as of March 17, the newly discovered comet's magnitude, a measure of its brightness, was +8.5, 600 times brighter than forecasts. It may well become the brightest comet in years.
Comets are made of dust, frozen water, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide.
Citing Karl Battams of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Space Weather Archive reports ATLAS is shedding huge amounts of gas and it may yet disintegrate before reaching the Sun.
The comet ATLAS is named after the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System, a pair of observatories in Hawaii that first discovered the comet on Dec. 18, 2019.
Space Weather Archive reports ATLAS began heating up two months before reaching the Perihelion, or the nearest approach to the Sun.
Should it withstand the sun's heat, the comet will loop inside Mercury's orbit and become visible to the naked eye on Earth in April.
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