Guest post by Paul Dorian
This photograph was taken in Switzerland a few days and it shows three fragments of Comet ATLAS confirming what other amateur astronomers have witnessed…the breaking apart of this once-promising comet. Photo courtesy Jose de Queiroz, spaceweather.com
There was a chance that Comet ATLAS was going to put on a dazzling show during the month of May, but as has been the experience with many comets in recent history, those hopes vanished as we approached event time. In fact, there is no longer any doubt that Comet ATLAS (officially named C/2019 Y4) is falling apart.
The breakup of Comet ATLAS coincides with a sharp decline in its brightness. The Comet Observation Database shows a drop of two full magnitudes (a factor of more than 6). Plot courtesy spaceweather.com
Numerous amateur astronomers are actually witnessing the breakup of Comet ATLAS and providing images of individual fragments. One such photograph from Switzerland on April 11 (above) shows three pieces of the once-promising comet. The breakup of the comet coincides with a sharp decline in its brightness in recent days as there has been a drop of two full magnitudes as reported by spaceweather.com. The trend is not good and suggests the comet could actually completely fall apart before its close approach to the sun at the end of May.
Move over Comet Kohoutek (1974)…you have some company.
Meteorologist Paul Dorian