On the tail of end of the once-in-50,000-year comet that passed by this February, experts have discovered another comet expected to pass through the Earth’s atmosphere next fall.
Experts at Asteroid Terrestial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) in South Africa discovered comet C/2023 on February 22nd earlier this year, though they initially believed it to be an asteroid.
Upon follow up observations, it was discovered that the object, which had been photographed a month prior at the Purple Mountain Observatory in China, had a tail and was therefore determined to be a comet. Therein it was dubbed the name C/2023 (Tsuchinshan–ATLAS) in reference to its discoverers.
“There was a lot of follow-up from many telescopes and thus MPC was able to compute its orbit,” said astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Peter Veres. “The orbit was parabolic and highly inclined to the ecliptic, thus everything pointed out to the fact this might be a comet.”
Presently, it is traveling at a speed of 15.7 km/s (35,120 mph) somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn. Come a couple years – in September/October 2024, experts predict – that the comet will reach a distance of 70 million kilometers from Earth. Then estimates suggest that it will have a magnitude of .7, according to EarthSky, and a brightness that “rivals some of the brightest stars in the sky”.
Comet C/2023 (Tsuchinshan-ATLAS) originated from the Oort cloud, as did the green comet. Unlike the recent green comet, however, stargazers – according to will not need the help of telescopes and binoculars to see the bigger and brighter C/2023, a rare celestial phenomenon that occurs once every couple years.
That said, comets are flaky. Or as Veres suggests: “Comets are unpredictable, and this can’t be more true for the comet that is being seen for the first time.”