The Earth will be receiving a special sky visitor this week in the form of comet C / 2018 Y1 Iwamoto – this sparkling, green-tinted piece of ice and minerals is already visible in the night sky through telescopes and even binoculars.
It's the first binocular comet from 2019 – that is, a comet visible through binoculars from Earth, as you may have guessed from the name; We get only a few of them every year.
This particular comet was only discovered a few months ago – the reason being the amateur astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto. The icy rock will probably take 1,371 years to orbit the Sun on a long elliptical path.
The nearest C / 2018 Y1 Iwamoto will bring to us is 45 million kilometers (or 28 million miles). That's 2.5 light minutes or 118 times farther than the moon. Thanks to the striking green glow, however, you can recognize it with your own device.
Why the glow? It is typical of comets such as C / 2018 Y1 Iwamoto and is caused by the sun's heat and radiation – these forces create a comet's coma as molten ice releases gas and dust from its surface, which becomes visible to the human eye Impressing light in space.
Last year, this effect was so pronounced in a passing comet that it was called The Incredible Hulk. The new skirt is not that angry, but should still be visible.
Visit http://www.InThe-Sky.org for a useful look-up table that lets you know exactly where the Iwamoto comet is on the day you read it. So you can maximize your chances to catch a glimpse.
However, be faster with your telescope and your camera: the celestial body zooms through the solar system at about 238,000 kilometers per hour (or 148,000 miles per hour). It will not last forever.
The comet has just passed the sun, and here on Earth he will see through the constellations of Leo, Cancer, and Gemini before he leaves our eyes and shoots back into the outer reaches of the Solar System.
Technically speaking, it is an object known as an extreme Trans-Neptunian object, a collection of objects that goes far beyond Pluto and may be five times as far from the Sun as the dwarf planet.
We really want to encourage you to go out into the garden and have a spy in time C / 2018 Y1 Iwamoto, even though it passes by: It is not planned to return to the Inner Solar System until the year 3390.