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12/10/2021 – Ephemeris – Our last look at Comet Leonard before it leaves forever*

December 10, 2021 Comments off

This is Ephemeris for Friday, December 10th. Today the Sun will be up for 8 hours and 52 minutes, setting at 5:02, and it will rise tomorrow at 8:10. The Moon, at first quarter today, will set at 12:25 tomorrow morning.

This is the day of the earliest sunset of the year. It doesn’t coincide with the shortest day because the Earth is moving faster in its orbit than average and getting ahead of its rotation a bit. Comet Leonard’s last appearance in the morning sky is tomorrow or Sunday before twilight overwhelms it. At 6:30 am it will be just a bit south of due east at azimuth 93 degrees and an altitude of 9 degrees, a bit less than the width of a fist held at arm’s length. When it gets into the evening sky, its track will take will be along the horizon from the southwest to the south. It will come very close to Venus, and I suspect that is what will alter its orbit slightly, so it will never return and end up becoming an interstellar comet.

The astronomical event times given are for the Traverse City/Interlochen area of Michigan (EST, UT – 5 hours). They may be different for your location.

* After this weekend, the comet will enter the evening sky, but will hang quite low to the horizon in evening twilight as it passes Venus, heads southward and fades. It would best be viewed by observers in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s headed out of the solar system in a hyperbolic orbit.

Addendum

Comet Leonard 7 am, 12/11/21

Comet Leonard (C/2021 A1) finder chart for 7:00 am, December 11, 2021. The comet’s tail may not be visible visually. The comet’s head, what astronomers call a coma, may appear as a large fuzzy spot. At that time it will be 22.1 million miles away, and will come within 21.7 million miles at its closest to us on the 12th. Created using Stellarium.

Comet Leonard (C/2021 A1) in the morning

Comet Leonard’s positions at 7:15 am on the dates indicated. The labels are Month-Day Total Magnitude. The star’s position relative to the horizon and the position of Mars are for December 10th. The star field will be shifting to the upper right each morning at 7:15 from the December 10th date at 7:15. Comets always appear dimmer than their magnitude suggests because they are extended objects, not points like stars. Also, comet magnitudes can be unpredictable. Created using Cartes du Ciel (Sky Charts).