On December 24 at 7.40 pm, while the majority of Peruvians were getting ready to receive Christmas, two astrophotographers noticed an exceptional object in the sky: Comet Leonard.
The celestial body has been observed in different parts of Peru during the last days. However, the recent photo taken in Cachicadán (La Libertad) on Christmas Eve is probably the most detailed and spectacular yet.
The image was achieved thanks to the expertise and processing ability of Romel Villanueva Luján, from the Moche Observatory and Planetarium from Trujillo, and Luis Calle Rosasco, from the Astronomical Base Santa Eulalia (BASE).
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The appearance of Comet Leonard during that date “evokes a kind of ‘modern version’ of the Star of Bethlehem,” says the BASE publication.
In this image, obtained with a telescope and eight minutes of exposure, the head of the object can be seen, also called a coma, whose green color is due to the decomposition of the dicarbon caused by sunlight.
Also, you can see the extensive tail of dust and gas that comes out in the opposite direction to the Sun.
According to astronomical calculations, this cosmic visitor will be visible from Earth until January 3, 2022, when you make your closest approach to the king star and begin your return to the Oort cloud, a region that surrounds the solar system and is full of icy objects.
His journey from there has taken him about 40,000 years.
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Comet C / 2021 A1 (Leonard) can be distinguished with binoculars or even with the naked eye in the part southwest of clear skies, an hour after sunset. It is necessary to be in a place away from the city so that the lights do not obstruct the observation.
At first glance, this celestial body can be seen as a diffuse star, but the use of binoculars makes it possible to differentiate its coma and its tail.
Seeing Comet Leonard represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, as it won’t return to the inner solar system for 80,000 years.
If you can’t get it, you could wait for the next comet bright enough and close to Earth to pass, which happens roughly every five years.
You could expect even less, as just last year we had the ‘visit’ of Comet Neowise, which looked much bigger and brighter than Leonard.