Something unusual is happening to Comet Leonard

Comet Leonard's tail is experiencing a disconnection event, captured in this amazing photo, thanks to space weather disrupting it.

Published Wed, Dec 29 2021 3:30 AM CST   |   Updated Thu, Jan 20 2022 1:32 AM CST

The tail of Comet Leonard is starting to break up.

Something unusual is happening to Comet Leonard 01 |

In this picture taken by Gerald Rhemann on December 25th, you can see the tail of Comet Leonard experiencing a disconnection event. Partway down the tail from the comet itself, where it begins to swirl, the tail is being pinched off and separated away from the rest of the tail streaming off the comet.

Coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can disrupt comet tails, sometimes disconnecting them completely, though Comet Leonard has not yet had a known CME impact. Solar winds streams can still produce a similar effect, two of which have hit the comet in recent weeks.

The bright 'knot' associated with the disconnection event is visible as Comet Leonard streaks through the sky, with binoculars providing the best view. However, not every knot found in the comet's tail is a disconnection event. Since December 15th, Comet Leonard has flared brightly three times, producing other visible effects in its tail. These flares are potentially due to the comet's core fragmenting.

Catch a glimpse of the comet using this helpful website, before it disappears for millennia early next year.

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