by Surabhi Agarwal
Discovered on January 3, 2021 by Astronomer Gregory J. Leonard, comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard) is heading inward toward its January 3, 2022, perihelion. It has the potential to become the brightest comet of 2021! It is currently in Ursa Major and is predicted to brighten until December 13, at which time it may be visible with binoculars.
An ultrafast comet, Leonard is traveling at 158,084 miles per hour (254,412 km/h or 70.67 km/second) relative to Earth. But despite its incredible speed, don’t expect to see it zip across the sky. To us it will appear as a very slow moving object because of its great distance from the earth.
According to Bob King in Sky and Telescope in October 2021 –
“Orbital calculations revealed that the object had spent the last 35,000 years wending its way sunward after reaching aphelion at the chilling distance of around 3,500 AU (3,500 times the distance between our Earth and sun].”
In other words, it is a once-in-a-lifetime event. This comet takes tens of thousands of years to complete an orbit around the sun and after this current close sweep, we will not see it again.