He kite C72014 Y4 Atlas, discovered last December 28 on a path of approach to the Sun, has dismembered into several fragments, with evident changes in the brightness distribution.
The image, dated April 12, comes from the average of 57 60-second exposures, taken remotely with a robotic unit included in the Virtual Telescope Project. The telescope followed the apparent motion of the comet and the images were stacked using the comet’s orbit to provide the best precision. The image scale is 0.63 arcseconds per pixel.
In the enlarged image present in the upper left corner you can see the central region, in which three fragments or probably four can be distinguished as seen in observations of April 11, according to a statement from this observatory. Apparently, the westernmost fragment is now the brightest, when day 11 seemed weaker, while the general appearance of the group changed regarding the expansion of the components.
A comet becomes brighter as it gets closer to the sun because it burns more intensely and releases more frozen volatiles.
With an almost parabolic orbit, its closest approach to the Sun, the perihelion will take place on May 31, 37.8 million kilometers from our star. If its activity continues it can be seen from then on and for weeks with the naked eye in the night sky.
The comet is predicted to reach a magnitude of -8.2 in its perigee and -11.7 in its perihelion. Keep in mind that the coma extends up to 300,000 kilometers, more than twice the diameter of Jupiter. It is a green tail that occurs as the carbon and cyanide gas inside the comet ionize as it gets closer to our host star.
This April, when the sky darkens, it is visible midway in the northwest sky at night in the constellation of Perseus-Camelopardails and in June it will be visible in the Orion constellation in the northeast sky in the morning and potentially visible to the naked eye. It has been identified as a hyperbolic comet, meaning that its orbit extends deeper into the cosmos, with the Sun acting as a gravitational wave to launch it further from the solar system.
The comet has an orbit similar to that of Great Comet of 1844, leading to speculation if C / 2019 Y4 is a fragment of the same main body as the Comet of 1844. The core has already been baked by the sun In their previous encounter about 5,000 years ago, when presumably a much larger comet broke into at least 2 pieces, it later returned as the Great Comet C / 1844 Y1, also known as Wilmot’s Comet, and Comet C / 2019 Y4.