In terms of celestial events, 2021 is going out in a blaze of glory.
Comet Leonard, discovered in January of this year by astronomer Greg Leonard, is racing toward the sun and will make its closest pass of Earth in the coming days.
"Close" is always a relative term in astronomy: Leonard will be 21 million miles away at its nearest point, moving at an ultrafast speed of 158,000 miles per hour.
Movement of Comet Leonard within an hour...@Comet2021a1 #Astrophotography #CometLeonard pic.twitter.com/GfkaoFAO4v
— aydinmustafa.eth (@aydinmustafaaa) December 4, 2021
Comets are unpredictable, but at this point, Leonard isn't expected to be bright enough for Chicagoans to see without binoculars or a telescope. Luckily, the Adler Planetarium has the latter.
The planetarium will host a special Comet Leonard edition of its Sky Observers Hangout on YouTube, live from the Doane Oberservatory. Tune in Tuesday at 5 a.m. for an informative interactive chat, including viewing tips. If clouds and weather cooperate, the Adler will train its telescope on Leonard.
Catching Leonard is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The comet took some 35,000 years to reach our solar system and won't be coming back any time soon.
If you miss the Adler's session, NASA has a brief guide:
Contact Patty Wetli: @pattywetli | (773) 509-5623 | [email protected]