You need to see the most exciting comet of 2022: here’s how

a cold visitor from the distant Oort Cloud it is still in view if you know exactly where to look for it. The comet is C/2017 K2 PanSTARRS. It’s in the name: The comet was discovered five years ago in 2017, an unusually long lead time, even for a long-period comet. Although it (unfortunately) never entered the inner Solar System, mid-2022 is the best time to see the comet, and its distance also means that, unlike fast short-period comets, K2 PanSTARRS will remain in the sky for the rest of the day. of 2022. .

This Hubble Space Telescope image shows a fuzzy cloud of dust, called a coma, surrounding Comet C/2017 K2 PANSTARRS while it was still more than 1.5 billion miles from the Sun, just beyond the orbit of Saturn. NASA/ESA/Hubble/STcI

The comet was discovered by the prolific Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System (PanSTARRS) automated comet hunter on the night of May 21, 2017. The distant discovery (16 Astronomical Units-AU) gave astronomers pause: only the Comet(s) C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp (in 1997) and the massive comet C/2014 UN271 Bernardinelli-Bernstein have never been seen active at such a great distance. This is usually indicative of a prelude to a good show.

The comet’s orbit is likely to be dynamically new, which explains its stormy behavior while it is still far from the Sun. K2 PanSTARRS will reach perihelion 1.8 AU (just beyond the orbit of Mars) later this year, on Decembre 19th. This passage will also shorten its orbit to “only” 18,000 years, with a departure aphelion 1400 AU away.

The orbital path of comet K2 PanSTARRS through the inner solar system. Credit: NASA/JPL

If comet K2 PanSTARRS had entered deep into the inner solar system like Hale-Bopp in the late 1990s, we would be in for a real spectacular show. Ironically, Hale-Bopp spent about six months on the opposite side of Earth’s orbit from us, and still managed to put on an incredible show. Also, like K2 PanSTARRS, Hale-Bopp shortened its orbit (thanks to Jupiter) from 4,200 years (in) to 2,533 years (out).

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The comet in 2022

During the latter half of 2022, Comet K2 PanSTARRS hovers around Ophiuchus and dives into Scorpius the Scorpion, crossing the ecliptic plane to the south in late August. This means now is the time for Northern Hemisphere observers to spot Comet K2 PanSTARRS before we lose it in the southern sky. In early August, the comet travels high to the south around 9 pm local time.

The comet, month by month in 2022

Comet K2 PanSTARRS has already passed some red letter dates in early July as it passed within 1.8 AU of Earth on July 14 and passed within just 25′ of the globular cluster Messier 10 in Ophiuchus, giving many astrophotographers good photo session.

Here are the month-by-month target dates for Comet K2 PanSTARRS for the remainder of 2022:

(Note: Unless otherwise noted, “near” denotes less than one degree.)


4-Go to the constellation of Scorpio

21-Pass close to the bright star (+2.5 magnitude) Graffias (Beta Scorpii)

24-Nicks the constellation of Libra

25-Enter Scorpius again

26-Crosses the plane of the ecliptic to the south

31-Pass close to the bright star (+2.3 magnitude) Dschubba (Delta Scorpii)


3-Near the crescent moon

9-Near the star of magnitude +2.9 Pi Scorpii

17-Near the star of magnitude +3.8 Rho Scorpii

22-Go to the constellation Lupus the Wolf

23-Pass close to comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann of magnitude +12


11-Pass close to the star of magnitude +4.2 Theta Lupi

19-Crosses back to Scorpius

31-Crosses towards the constellation Norma Plaza del Carpintero


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12-Crosses in the constellation Ara el Altar

14-Cross the galactic plane to the south

29-Pass close to the star of magnitude +4.0 Epsilon Arae


6-Pass close to the star of magnitude +2.8 Beta Arae

7-Pass close to the star of magnitude +3.3 Gamma Arae

15-Go to the Pavo the Peacock constellation

19-Reaches perihelion, 1.8 AU from the Sun

In 2023, the comet dips back below magnitude +10 and remains in the southern hemisphere sky as it recedes into the depths of the outer solar system, not returning until after (mark your calendars) 20,000 AD.

Don’t miss the appearance of Comet C/2017 K2 in 2022 as we all await the next great “Comet of the Century”.

This article was originally published on universe today by David Dickinson. Read the original article here.

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