Science

Comet Leonard may have generated a meteor shower on Venus

Comet Leonard may be causing meteor showers on Venus this weekend during the comet’s relatively close approach to the planet.

Officially known as Comet C / 2021 A1, also known as Comet Leonard, it was discovered in January by astronomer Gregory J. Leonard of the Mount Lemmon Infrared Observatory in Arizona. Its close pass of Venus this weekend gives sky watchers a marker in the afternoon sky to help spot the comet, which has binocular visibility from Earth and may be just barely bright enough to be visible from Earth. naked eye under clear dark skies.

On Venus, however, the story is different. The orbit of the planet and the comet will be within 50,000 km (31,000 miles) of each other, which is equivalent to the orbital path of the geosynchronous satellite above the Earth.

Comet Leonard is a once-in-a-lifetime comet for stargazers, as it takes about 80,000 years for its orbit to circle the sun. If you’re looking for a binocular telescope to view planets in the sky, check out our guide for the best binocular deals and the best telescope deals available now. Our best cameras for astrophotography and the best lenses for astrophotography can also help you choose the best imaging equipment to detect the next comet.

Do you want to see Comet Leonard? Here are recommendations for telescopes and binoculars.

This NASA sky map shows the location of Comet Leonard in the night sky from December 14 to December 25, 2021. (Image credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech)

Given the thick cloud cover on Venus, seeing a meteor shower on the planet would require you to be 35 to 40 miles (55 to 60 kilometers) above the surface, where the temperature and pressure are somewhat similar to Earth’s. Paul Byrne, a science planetarium at Washington University in St. Louis who focuses on Venus, recently told Space.com.

“It is the only other place in the solar system where room temperature and pressure conditions are present and potentially an astronaut could stand on the railing of a gondola with a breathing apparatus on but otherwise in shirt sleeves. “, He said.

Qicheng Zhang is a planetary science graduate student at Caltech and lead author of a new paper exploring the scenario, published July 26 on the preprint server arXiv.org and submitted to the Astronomical Journal.

Artist’s illustration of the Japanese Akatsuki spacecraft on Venus. (Image credit: JAXA / Akihiro Ikeshita)

The paper suggested that the best scenario for a meteor shower occurs when Venus traverses the comet’s trail, but it would require very high activity from the comet. That’s a pretty rare scenario, but not impossible.

“If we had a positive meteor detection on Venus from this event, it would tell us that this comet was quite active at great distances from the sun,” Zhang previously told Space.com.

Venus only has one orbiter in place: Japan’s Akatsuki spacecraft. But Earth, Venus and the sun can all be oriented in a way that allows observers on Earth to see faint glimpses of debris from Comet Leonard, Zhang said. (In contrast, a close flyby of Comet Siding Spring near Mars in 2014 was detected by several spacecraft.)

Editor’s Note: If you take a stunning photo of a comet or night sky and would like to share it with Space.com readers, please send your photos, comments, and your name and location to spacepramio@.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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