Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tonight's Sky for June 17: Brightening Comet UQ4 Catalina

In the sky right now, there's a cosmic shape-shifter in the form of Comet UQ4 Catalina, which was initially thought to be an asteroid.

Discovered last October by the Catalina Sky Survey, which searches for near-Earth asteroids, the asteroid, then called simply 2013 UQ4, was then lost in the Sun's glare as it disappeared behind our nearest star. However, upon reemergence, the asteroid was found to be sporting a coma and tail, which is something that only comets do.

As of now, the comet is shining at around +13 magnitude and will only be getting better as time goes on, at least in terms of visibility, as it will rise higher and higher into the sky as it moves away from the Sun. As of now, predictions call for a peak magnitude of +7 (easy in binoculars) in the first full week of July.

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