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A Vancouver photographer captured 2021’s brightest comet -- and you can too

The comet was discovered only this year and can be seen with the naked eye!
Comet Leonard
Discovered by astronomer Gregory J. Leonard at the start of 2021, it is possible to see this comet with the unaided eye this December.

This month will likely be the last chance humans will have to see a 70,000-year-old comet before its own orbit ejects it from our solar system. 

Comet Leonard is a recently discovered and particularly reflective piece of rock and ice hurtling through space. The comet is predicted to sweep close enough to Earth to be seen by the unaided eye a few different times this month, the earliest being Dec. 6. However, a local photographer was able to get a shot of it even before then.

Rob Lyons is a photographer and council member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. We at Vancouver Is Awesome have featured his work before when he captured the Aurora Borealis shimmering over the city earlier this year. 

Lyons had an early start this week in order to snap the comet but he beat his own alarm.

“I was excited,” Lyons wrote recently on his Instagram page. “Clear skies have been a rarity lately and comets far more so. I got dressed and carried my gear up to the roof only to be met by clouds. My weather apps promised some clearing around 5am so I got everything set up and waited for the skies to clear. The moment they broke I hit go on my imaging plan and went back to bed.”

Letting his equipment run he was able to capture a stunning shot of the comet but he hopes to get another before the end of 2021.


A post shared by Rob Lyons (@supercre8ive)

“Comet Leonard is on its way around the Sun and will become brighter all the way through December into early January and will be visible to cameras, binoculars, and maybe even the naked eye, if the clouds ever break that is!” Lyons wrote.

According to a report by NPR, if you can find the Big Dipper you can find Comet Leonard on Monday, Dec. 6 at around 5 a.m. by following the curve of the Big Dipper out past the end of the handle.

"The comet will just be about half the width of a clenched fist to the left," writes NPR. "You might spot it with the unaided eye, but more likely, you're going to need binoculars [or] a telescope."

If you miss the Dec. 6 get up, your next chance to see the comet is on the evening of Dec. 17.

“This time, look for the planet Venus to the southwest. The planet is the brightest object in the sky after the sun and moon. The comet will be between Venus and the horizon.”

For the best chances to view the comet you might want to get out of the city and away from any light pollution.