Today’s Astronomy Picture of the day asks the following question: will Comet Catalina become visible to the unaided eye?
Given the unpredictability of comets, no one can be sure, but it’s possible and currently it looks like it will. The more comets we see, the better as far as I’m concerned!
First discovered in 2013 by observations of the Catalina Sky Survey, Comet C/2013 US10 (Catalina) has steadily increased in brightness and is currently brighter than the 8th magnitude, making it visible with binoculars and long exposure camera images.
As the comet gets closer to the inner Solar System it will continue to get brighter, possibly becoming visible to the naked eye in October and peaking sometime in late November.
The comet will initially be visible in the skies of the southern hemisphere until mid-December when it’s highly inclined orbit will bring it quickly into northern skies and, hopefully, visible to us.
As shown above, Comet Catalina was imaged recently with a green coma and two growing tails, one of which will be debris lost through momentum, displaying the direction of travel. The other shorter but brighter tail being made of gasses and matter ejected by solar radiation, this shows the angle of the comet to the sun and always points away from the sun, no matter the direction of the comet.