Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)

Worry about catching Covid-19 while gathering with other astronomy geeks to observe the comet.

Worry about cloud cover or light pollution obscuring your view.

Worry about Amazon failing to deliver your new telescope before the show is over.

Worry about the comet breaking up as it swings close to the sun…or maybe don’t worry about that since science might learn more about comets if it does.

The comet Atlas will NOT swing “close” to Earth by any measure of “close” even remotely dangerous. It will swing close to the planet Mercury. Yes, it was discovered by The Atlas Project in Hawaii that’s funded by the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office. So what? It’s just an observatory that sees things that move in the sky. The comet is swinging in from the North of the Solar System from us, and will leave out the South end. It will swing no closer to us than we swing near any other major planets.

The comet will not flip the magnetic poles of the Sun, or have any more influence on it than a snowflake has on a blast furnace. Stars eat comets for lunch. The magnetic poles of the Sun flip every solar cycle on their own…about every eleven years…anyway.

Here’s the thing…we astronomy geeks get really excited about these things and the excitable news media and some in the general public mistake our excitement with actual life-and-death concerns.

“The current projections show it brightening greater than the models might indicate and that’s great, but these things are really fussy. It’s dangerous to make grandiose predictions about them.”

Larry Denneau — CO-Pi and Chief software engineer, The Atlas Project

The word “dangerous” here does not mean “imminent volcanic eruption” dangerous. It means “epic scientific embarrassment” dangerous. Ok? It’s like how the lead gunner on your favorite NBA team is “dangerous” at the free-throw line.

So Relax.

Just be glad we have a desperately needed nice thing in the news to worry about. That’s it, breath it in. I know you need it, I certainly do.

~ by Bill Housley on April 11, 2020.

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