In this age of technology, almost every new comet discovery belongs to a robotic discoverer like PanSTARRS. Thus, once in a new moon, when the news of a comet discovery by some amateur astronomer comes to light, you cannot help but feel inspired.
Comet C/2018 Y1 Iwamoto | Starting 2019 with some spark
On 18th December 2018 Japanese amateur astronomer, Mayasuki Iwamoto discovered a comet in the constellation of the water serpent- Hydra. This comet, named Comet C/2018 Y1 or Comet Iwamoto belongs to the class of objects beyond the Kuiper’s Belt, possibly in the hypothetical Oort Cloud.
These objects are also called Ultra Trans-Neptunian Objects. This has been estimated based on the inclination of the comet’s orbit to the plane of the Solar System, which comes out to be somewhere near 60 degrees. The comet is thought to have passed by Earth last before the invention of the telescope, and hence must have missed our eyes.
Observations of orbit predict that the comet has an orbital period of 1731 years, and will visit our vicinity again in the year 3390 AD.
Comet Iwamoto is a rather fast moving comet cruising at a speed of 66 kilometers per second relative to the Earth and passes by many prominent galaxies and other deep sky objects along its path. Most astronomers have captured the new guest alongside Sombrero galaxy or M104.
On its aphelion which happened on 7th February 2019, it was 1.282 astronomical units (AU) away, while on its closest approach it will be 0.384 astronomical units away from us. This closest approach will happen on 12-13th February 2019. During this closest approach, the Comet will be in the constellation of Leo, above Regulus.
It will have spent its time passing below the bowl of Virgo and will be on its way to pass into Cancer.
On its closest approach, the magnitude will be between 6.5-7.5. While the comet has been better than 11 magnitude for most of its observational period. It will be visible through small telescopes and binoculars.
This offers another amazing opportunity to capture a bright comet, after the last visitor Comet Wirtanen, which had attracted a lot of eyes towards it. So don’t forget to take out your optics to have a glance of the cosmic visitor.