In only a few days, newly-discovered Comet Iwamoto will split the orbits of Earth and Mars, making a relatively close approach to our planet visible through small telescopes. This is a rare visit. The comet comes from the realm of Extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects, a distant region of the solar system inhabited by strange objects such as “Sedna” and “the Goblin.”
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Discovered in Dec. 2018 by Japanese amateur astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto, using binoculars, this comet is a visitor from beyond the Kuiper Belt. It comes from the realm of Extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects (ETNOs) more than 5 times as far from the sun as Pluto. This means it could be a relative of other ETNOS such as Sedna, 2012 VP113 (“Biden“), and 2015 TG387 (“Goblin“). More at Spaceweather.com
From NASA JPL, this image shows the position of the comet when it makes the closest approach to Earth on Feb 12th.
See the interactive orbit viewer here
From NASA APOD:
Iwamoto will pass closest to Earth on February 12. This comet’s highly elliptical orbit around the Sun stretches beyond the Kuiper belt with an estimated 1,371 year orbital period. That should bring it back to the inner Solar System in 3390 AD. The comet is traveling very fast through space at a speed of 147,948 miles per hour (238,099 km/h) relative to Earth.
That’s a speed of 41 miles per second!
Above: Comet Iwamoto (C/2018 Y1), shows off a pretty, greenish coma at the upper left in this telescopic field of view. Taken on February 4 from the Mount John Observatory, University of Canterbury, the 30 minute long total exposure time shows the comet sweeping quickly across a background of stars and distant galaxies in the constellation Virgo. The long exposure and Iwamoto’s rapid motion relative to the stars and galaxies results in the noticeable blurred streak tracing the the comet’s bright inner coma. In fact, the streaked coma gives the comet a remarkably similar appearance to Messier 104 at lower right, popularly known as the Sombrero Galaxy. The comet, a visitor to the inner Solar System, is a mere 4 light-minutes away though, while majestic Messier 104, a spiral galaxy posing edge-on, is 30 million light-years distant.
Comet Iwamoto will be closest to Earth on February 12, 2019, at around 3:10 p.m. ET (20:10 UTC) It will safely pass by Earth at a distance of approximately 28 million miles (45 million km). With a brightness magnitude of +6.5, the comet will be visible only with the aid of optics, such as binoculars and telescopes.