© Andy Roberts 1997. Pictured comet is C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.

Comet C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) passes perihelion

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Comet C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) will make its closest approach to the Sun on 9 January, at a distance of 3.55 AU.

From Fairfield on the day of perihelion it will be visible in the evening sky, becoming accessible around 17:52 (EDT), 22° above your north-eastern horizon, as dusk fades to darkness. It will then reach its highest point in the sky at 23:38, 80° above your southern horizon. It will continue to be observable until around 05:26, when it sinks below 21° above your north-western horizon.

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.

The events that comprise the 2021–2022 apparition of C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) are as follows:

Date Event
09 Jan 2022Comet C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) passes perihelion

The table below lists the times when C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) will be visible from Fairfield day-by-day through its apparition:

Date Constellation Comet visibility
19 Dec 2021GeminiVisible from 19:24 until 05:59
Highest at 01:25, 84° above S horizon
21 Dec 2021GeminiVisible from 19:15 until 06:01
Highest at 01:15, 83° above S horizon
23 Dec 2021GeminiVisible from 19:07 until 06:02
Highest at 01:05, 83° above S horizon
25 Dec 2021GeminiVisible from 18:58 until 06:02
Highest at 00:55, 83° above S horizon
27 Dec 2021GeminiVisible from 18:49 until 06:03
Highest at 00:46, 82° above S horizon
29 Dec 2021GeminiVisible from 18:41 until 06:04
Highest at 00:36, 82° above S horizon
31 Dec 2021GeminiVisible from 18:32 until 06:04
Highest at 00:26, 82° above S horizon
02 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:23 until 06:05
Highest at 00:16, 81° above S horizon
04 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:14 until 05:57
Highest at 00:06, 81° above S horizon
06 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:02 until 05:42
Highest at 23:52, 81° above S horizon
08 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 17:53 until 05:31
Highest at 23:42, 80° above S horizon
10 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 17:53 until 05:20
Highest at 23:32, 80° above S horizon
12 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 17:55 until 05:08
Highest at 23:22, 80° above S horizon
14 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 17:57 until 04:57
Highest at 23:12, 79° above S horizon
16 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 17:59 until 04:46
Highest at 23:03, 79° above S horizon
18 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:01 until 04:35
Highest at 22:53, 78° above S horizon
20 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:03 until 04:24
Highest at 22:43, 78° above S horizon
22 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:05 until 04:13
Highest at 22:34, 77° above S horizon
24 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:08 until 04:02
Highest at 22:24, 77° above S horizon
26 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:10 until 03:51
Highest at 22:15, 77° above S horizon
28 Jan 2022GeminiVisible from 18:12 until 03:41
Highest at 22:05, 76° above S horizon

A more detailed table of C/2019 L3 (ATLAS)'s position on each night is available here. A diagram of the orbit of C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) is available here.

Finder chart

The chart below shows the path of C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) over the course of its apparition, as calculated from the orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC). It is available for download, either on dark background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats, or on a light background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats. It was produced using StarCharter.

Comet brightnesses

Comets are intrinsically highly unpredictable objects, since their brightness depends on the scattering of sunlight from dust particles in the comet's coma and tail. This dust is continually streaming away from the comet's nucleus, and its density at any particular time is governed by the rate of sublimation of the ice in the comet's nucleus, as it is heated by the Sun's rays. It also depends on the amount of dust that is mixed in with that ice. This is very difficult to predict in advance, and can be highly variable even between successive apparitions of the same comet.

In consequence, while the future positions of comets are usually known with a high degree of confidence, their future brightnesses are not. For most comets, we do not publish any magnitude estimates at all. For the few comets where we do make estimates, we generally prefer the BAA's magnitude parameters to those published by the Minor Planet Center, since they are typically updated more often.

Based on the magnitude parameters published for this comet by the BAA Comet Section, we estimate that it may be around mag 10 on 9 January 2022. This estimate is based on observations that the BAA has received from amateur astronomers, assuming that its current level of activity will remain constant.

You will probably require a telescope to see this comet. It is unlikely to be visible through bird-watching binoculars, and even less likely to be visible to the unaided eye.

The comet's position at perihelion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Comet C/2019 L3 (ATLAS) 07h03m40s 31°20'N Gemini 9.5

The coordinates are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 09 Jan 2022

The sky on 09 January 2022
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

7-day old moon
Waxing Gibbous


7 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 08:23 13:18 18:13
Venus 06:51 11:51 16:51
Moon 11:34 17:59 00:35
Mars 05:13 09:48 14:24
Jupiter 09:31 14:53 20:14
Saturn 08:38 13:37 18:35
All times shown in EST.


This event was automatically generated on the basis of orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) , and is updated whenever new elements become available. It was last updated on 19 Feb 2023.

Image credit

© Andy Roberts 1997. Pictured comet is C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.






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