A VISITOR FROM BEYOND THE KUIPER BELT: Comet Iwamoto (C/2018 Y1) is coming. On Feb. 12th and 13th, the dirty snowball will make a rare visit to the inner solar system, passing by our planet only 0.3 AU (45 million km) away. Here it is, approaching Earth on Feb. 7th from the constellation Virgo:
Amateur astronomer Michael Jäger made the 41-minute movie at his private observatory in Jauerling, Austria. At the time, Comet Iwamoto was crossing the celestial equator, so there are many streaks in the movie from geostationary satellites. (Update: A new movie from Jäger shows even more satellites including one satellite flare.)
Discovered in Dec. 2018 by Japanese amateur astronomer Masayuki Iwamoto, this comet is a visitor from beyond the Kuiper Belt. It comes from the realm of Extreme Trans-Neptunian Objects (ETNOs) more than 5 times as far from the sun as Pluto. This means it could be a relative of other ETNOS such as Sedna, 2012 VP113 (“Biden“), and 2015 TG387 (“Goblin“).
Comet Iwamoto doesn’t visit us very often. Following a highly elliptical 1371-year orbit, its last passage through the inner solar system was around 648 AD (unrecorded), and its next won’t happen until 3390 AD. Therefore, if you want to see the comet, now is the time to look.