Due to cloud cover I missed the Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) passing close to The Owl Nebula a short time ago.
But the excitement is building.
This comet has started to surprise us.
In the last week or so it has brightened significantly.
I took this image of the comet on the 22nd of March 2020.
The comet has started to produce a tail.
Currently around 8th magnitude the comet is passing south of M81 and M82 in Ursa Major over the next few days.
The map below shows a close up of its path at this time. Click on the chart for a closer view.
The full path of the comet during this apparition is shown at the bottom of the page.
During the month it moves very slowly westwards through Ursa Major toward Camelopardalis.
It finally reaches that constellation , which it reaches by the end of April.
It crosses towards Perseus, which by this time, (mid May) its apparent speed will have started to accelerate and the comet should brighten even more as it approaches The Sun.
Unfortunately it is now heading towards the evening twilight as it passes through Perseus as it approaches perihelion.
At this time it will be visible fairly low down in the north western sky, above and to the right of Venus just after sunset.
How bright it could be at this time remains to be seen. It has the potential to become a naked eye object.
But we all know just how unpredictable comets can be.
Here’s one of my old images of Hale-Bopp put into a Stellarium view of the sky on the 18th of May 2020 at about 22:30 UT.
We can only keep our fingers crossed that it does give us a very nice display like this (or maybe better?) in the evenings fading light.
Of course I have used an extreme amount of artistic license here. But hey, we can always dream.
The comet reaches perihelion on the 31st of May, when we will definitely be lost from view in the northern hemisphere.
The map below shows the full path of the comet during the apparition.