A rare comet with an atmosphere half the size of the sun is approaching the earth and by next month and should be visible in the night sky.
Known as C/2019 Y4, or simply ATLAS, the comet is currently passing through the orbit of mars, about 97,357,463 miles from the Earth and appears at about the brightness of an 8th-magnitude star. Though not visible to the eye yet, the comet is currently visible through medium-sized telescopes, glowing green from its diatomic carbon content.
Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) moving from Ursa Major to Camelopardalis. Animation shows movement of last night from 22:58 to 00:50 UTC. 174×30″ frames at f/4.8 with @zwoasi 183MM#Comet #CometAtlas #Astrophotography pic.twitter.com/H5EhrA7Ae7
— CosmoNowa (@CosmoNowaMD) March 30, 2020
The exact size of the comet, basically an icy rock, isn’t known precisely, but it’s estimated to be only a few miles across. But Atlas’ atmosphere, the gaseous cloud surrounding the comet, has a diameter measuring about 447,387 miles which is half the size of the Sun’s diameter.
The comet poses no danger as it will pass more than 72 million miles away from our planet.
Comet ATLAS C/2019 Y4 was discovered by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System. Now growing brighter in northern night skies, the comet’s pretty greenish coma is at the upper left of this telescopic skyview captured in New Mexico on March 18. pic.twitter.com/28sYxQ4Lu5
— payne (@subutayceyhan) March 21, 2020
Amateur astronomers will be pleased to see that it is developing a tail as it approaches the sun. It will appear its brightest around the end of April when it may be visible to the naked eye or through binoculars, making its closest approach to Earth on May 23. At that time, it may appear brighter than Venus in our night sky. The comet’s passage is cause for astronomer’s to celebrate as the last time a comet was visible without a telescope in the northern hemisphere was the 1997 passing of Hale-Bopp.
It is gaining speed and getting brighter as it approaches the Sun. It will be at its perihelion (closest-to-sun point) at 23,517,819 miles on May 31.
Astronomers are hard-pressed to predict how bright it will get as many comets fizzle and never reach their expected brightness. The comet may also fragment along the way, ending in a fizzle.
Atlas was the last comet discovered by the NASA-funded ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) survey in Hawaii last year. The comet has grown 4,000 times brighter since it was discovered. Calculations by NASA/JPL indicate Comet ATLAS takes some 6,025 years to complete an orbit around the sun and its last Earth fly-by was sometime around 4000 BCE.
The appearance of the new light in the night sky could have much bigger implications for the earth-bound. Such an appearance was described in the Biblical prophecy of Balaam which hails the appearance of a new star as the precursor to Messiah.
I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not nigh; there shall step forth a star out of Yakov, and a scepter shall rise out of Yisrael, and shall smite through the corners of Moab, and break down all the sons of Seth. Numbers 24:17
Rabbi Yosef Berger, the rabbi of King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, cited Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, known by the acronym Rambam, the foremost Torah authority of the 12th century, whose rulings are still used as the basis for much of Jewish law.
“The Rambam brings this verse about a star appearing as proof that the Messiah will come one day,” Rabbi Berger told Breaking Israel News. “But he says it will come from Jacob, and not from Esau. More specifically, from the tribe of Judah.”
Even more incredibly, the Zohar, the foundational work of Jewish mysticism predicts, in detail, the color and type of stars which will appear. “The Zohar states explicitly that the Messianic process will be accompanied by several stars appearing. The Zohar goes into great depth, describing how many stars, and which colors they will be,” Rabbi Berger explained.
“The end-of-days is going to be a war between truth and lies,” Rabbi Berger said. “If a man sees the truth, he needs to shout it to the world. If a man chooses a lie over the truth, it is a sign that he rejects the rule of God; that God created the world and still is the one who makes the world continue.”
“In our generation, we have seen the return of the Jews from the exile, the desert blooming, and many other prophecies coming to fruition. Some people can look at this and twist prophecies of the final geula (redemption) to fit their lies. This comet may be the Star of Jacob in which case we will see a scepter of the Children of Jacob rise up in Israel. This should be a cause for celebration of all believers of the Bible. But other people can twist this Star of Jacob to fit some other scenario that no Biblical prophet ever intended.”
“Those who accept the truth will rejoice when the Star of Jacob appears. Those who do not will be greatly dismayed at having been revealed as being from the spiritual descendants of Moab.”