Speedy comet approaching Earth’s vicinity

A fast-moving comet, C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto), is headed toward a late January/ early February encounter with the sun and Earth. It might soon be within reach of binoculars and small telescopes.

Comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) is seen at the bottom of this beautiful image by Rolando Ligustri. Used with permission.

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.

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A closer look at the celestial visitor orbit. Image via NASA/JPL.

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.

On February 11, 2019, at 10:00 p.m. CT ,  comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) will pass very close to Al Jabhah, a naked eye star of magnitude 3.45, between stars Algieba and Regulus, in the constellation of Leo.  Facing East around 10:00 p.m. CT as seen from Central U.S.   Illustration by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium.


Location of comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) from February 9 to 12, 2019.  Facing East at 10:00 p.m. CT as seen from central U.S.    Illustration by Eddie Irizarry using Stellarium.

The comet was detected in images taken on December 18, 2018.

We will keep you updated …

The orbit of comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) is very elliptical (elongated). Its orbit suggests this comet came from the Oort cloud of comets surrounding our solar system.

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