Japanese astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto discovered a new comet in late 2018. It’s a fast-moving comet that will be closest to Earth on February 12, 2019, at around 3:10 p.m. EST (20:10 UTC; translate to your time zone). 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).
This comet is fast! Comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) is traveling through space at the amazing speed of 147,948 miles per hour (238,099 km/h) or 66 km per second, relative to Earth.
The best nights for observing the comet with optical aid should be on February 12 and 13. It will not be visible to the eye alone. But observers report it is now visible in binoculars.
The orbit of comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) is so elliptical (elongated), that calculations indicate it takes around 1,371.3 years to return.
As you see this astronomical object with your own eyes (using binoculars or a small telescope), it will be amazing to realize that humans might see this comet again around year 3390.
Amateur astronomers have been catching wonderful images of this comet for some time. If you get a good image, please submit it to EarthSky Community Photos. Good luck!
Comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) shows two tails in this amazing sequence captured on February 12, 2019 by Michael Jäger.
Our friends from Northolt Observatories captured an animation or sequence of images in which Comet C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) is seen as it moves across the sky:
C/2018 Y1 (Iwamoto) is a long period comet that is currently observable at 7th magnitude, just too faint to be seen with the naked eye.
C/2018 Y1 will come to perihelion on February 7th. Five days later, it will make its closest approach to Earth, at a distance of 0.30 AU (45 million km).
The tumbling satellite OLYMPUS-1 is crossing the field of view.
Northolt Branch Observatories
The PACA Project
ESA – European Space Agency
Publicado por Northolt Branch Observatories en Domingo, 3 de febrero de 2019
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 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.