The night sky offers many exciting sights for the beholder, on one simple condition: having patience. This wonderful attribute is needed for spotting comets, asteroids, or other exciting celestial shows. Just about a week ago, on April 1st, the webbyfeed.com website was speaking about an upcoming comet that will illuminate the night sky. Its name is Atlas, and it’s not called that way for nothing: it was expected to be even bigger than Jupiter.
In the Greek mythology, Atlas was a titan condemned to hold up the celestial heavens for the whole eternity. But the Atlas that is making the subject of this article is at least as interesting as the mythological creature.
The Atlas comet arrives in May
Atlas is expected to reach its closest point to Earth in May, but astronomers believe that the comet disintegrated. Therefore, there are chances that it won’t be even visible for the naked eye anymore.
According to recent images, there is an elongated pseudo-nucleus that is appearing as being crushed away from the comet. This points to a major disruption of the cosmic object, according to astronomers Quanzhi Ye and Qicheng Zhang who wrote in an astronomical telegram:
We report the possible disintegration of comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), revealed by the public monitoring program carried out by the 0.6-m Ningbo Education Xinjiang Telescope (NEXT). Images taken on UT 2020 April 5.6-5.9 showed an elongated pseudo-nucleus measuring about 3 arcsec in length and aligned with the axis of the tail, a morphology consistent with a sudden decline or cessation of dust production, as would be expected from a major disruption of the [comet’s] nucleus.
Short story about Atlas
The Atlas comet (aka C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) by its official name) was discovered by the Atlas survey last year in December 28. The cosmic object can be currently found in the constellation of Camelopardalis with binoculars or a telescope.
On May 12 the Atlas comet will move into Perseus, a constellation in the northern sky which was named after the Greek mythological character Perseus.