Whoa! Comet ATLAS got brighter this week

Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) was getting brighter. Then, sadly, the Hubble Space Telescope caught it apparently disintegrating. Now … surprise. Veteran comet observer Terry Lovejoy reported earlier today that the comet is brightening again!

Four nights of observations of Comet ATLAS. The 4th image shows a distinctly brighter comet.

Comet ATLAS – the comet that doesn’t want to die – via Terry Lovejoy (@TerryLovejoy66 on Twitter).

Earlier this year, comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) seemed to be brightening steadily. Many hoped it would become bright enough to see with the eye alone. Then suddenly the comet appeared to disintegrate, breaking our hearts. Widely distributed Hubble Space Telescope images showed the comet in multiple pieces. Now there’s news about the comet again. Veteran comet observer Terry Lovejoy reported on Twitter earlier today (May 9, 2020) that he observed the comet brightening over the past several nights:

That’s all we know so far. It’s likely just a temporary surge. By the way, in case you’re wondering, we trust Terry Lovejoy to provide an accurate report on the comet’s changing brightness. He’s discovered six comets himself and taken countless wonderful images of comets. Thank you, Terry!

As astronomers know … comets are unpredictable. We’ll keep you updated if we hear more.

Bottom line: Images from veteran comet observer Terry Lovejoy show Comet ATLAS brightening from May 5 to May 9, 2020.

Deborah Byrd