Is it time to prepare for another naked-eye comet of the century? Maybe so as Comet Leonard appeared out of nowhere in January and is expected to be visible this year!
The comet in question is Comet Leonard, also catalogued C/2021 A1 was discovered by astronomer Gregory J. Leonard on January 3 at the Mount Lemmon Observatory, also known as the Mount Lemmon Infrared Observatory.
The comet is projected to get as close as O.233 au from Earth on December 12, 2021. It will look its best mid to late December 2021, likely best seen before sunrise and just after sunset – if it survives that long.
It is important to note that you should not get too excited just yet because the behavior of comets is notoriously hard to predict.
There is a lot of evidence that it could peat at around magnitude 4 which would mean that it could be visible to the naked eye. It’s currently magnitude 19.
If you don’t want to wait for it to be visible to the naked eye in December, you could whip out your telescope, Leonard is roughly near the lower star in the “handle” of the big dipper – the star Alkalid – if you look north after the sky is dark.