AUSTIN (KXAN) — A newly discovered comet could brighten up your night during some of the longest nights of the year. Comet Leonard was only just discovered in January 2021 beyond Mars, but now the orbit will reach the closest point to Earth later this month.
NASA describes a comet as “frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system composed of dust, rock, and ices. They range from a few miles to tens of miles wide, but as they orbit closer to the Sun, they heat up and spew gases and dust into a glowing head that can be larger than a planet. This material forms a tail that stretches millions of miles.”
Comet Leonard will pass by Earth and then Venus this month before passing around the sun early next year.
Most likely you’ll need binoculars or a telescope to view Comet Leonard, but some estimates suggest it could become bright enough to be seen by the naked eye and without additional assistance.
According to EarthSky.org, Comet Leonard will likely be the brightest comet of 2021 with the best viewing coming Dec. 12 in the evening sky.
This year will be your only opportunity to see Comet Leonard since it takes tens of thousands of years to orbit the sun.