HYPERBOLIC COMET JOHNSON: Comet Johnson (C/2015 V2) has just entered the galaxy-rich constellation Virgo, and it is passing by a spectacular array of star systems. Amateur astronomer Rolando Ligustri used a remotely controlled telescope in New Mexico to photograph the flyby on June 18th:
"Comet Johnson is close to many
galaxies!" he says. And it will probably pass by many more in the
weeks ahead as the comet continues its journey past the Virgo Cluster.
This beautiful comet made its closest
approach to the sun (1.6 AU) just a few days ago--an encounter that
set the stage for its departure. Comet Johnson is on a hyperbolic orbit,
which means the sun's gravity is flinging the the comet into deep
space. After this visit to the inner solar system, it will probably
Now is the time to look. The comet is
about as bright as an 8th magnitude star--invisible to the naked eye,
but an easy target for backyard telescopes. On June 22nd, Comet
Johnson will cross the celestial equator heading south, giving
astronomers in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and South America a
front row seat as the comet recedes into interstellar space. Resources: 3D orbit, ephemeris, magnitudes.
Comet Photo Gallery