A new celestial visitor has been discovered by Japanese astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto. As of December 26, 2018, reports of observations of the comet were coming in from observatories around the world. It’s a fast-moving comet that will be closest to Earth by February 2019. The celestial visitor will safely pass by Earth at some 28 million miles (45 million km). The comet has been designated C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto).
Closest approach to Earth should occur around February 11-12, 2019. Preliminary estimates suggest the newly found comet might reach a brightness or magnitude between 7.5 and 8.9 , which means it should be easily seen with small telescopes and perhaps even in binoculars in a few weeks.
During closest approach to Earth, comet Iwamoto will be located in front of the constellation Leo the Lion, which is visible late at night at this time of year.
By February, 2019, comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) will be travelling through space at the amazing speed of 148,093 miles per hour (238,333 km/h) or 66.2 km per second, relative to Earth.
The comet was detected in images taken on December 18, 2018.
We will keep you updated …
Bottom line: A new comet soon to be within reach of binoculars and small telescopes is heading toward a February 2019 encounter with the sun and Earth. It’ll pass Earth safely at on February 11-12.
Eddie Irizarry of the Sociedad de Astronomía del Caribe (Astronomical Society of the Caribbean) has been a NASA Solar System Ambassador since 2004. He loves public outreach and has published multiple astronomy articles for EarthSky, as well as for newspapers in Puerto Rico. He has also offered dozens of conferences related to asteroids and comets at the Arecibo Observatory.