Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) was getting brighter. Then, sadly, the Hubble Space Telescope caught it apparently disintegrating. Now … surprise. Veteran comet observer Terry Lovejoy reported earlier today that the comet is brightening again!


Comet ATLAS – the comet that doesn’t want to die – via Terry Lovejoy (@TerryLovejoy66 on Twitter).

Earlier this year, comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) seemed to be brightening steadily. Many hoped it would become bright enough to see with the eye alone. Then suddenly the comet appeared to disintegrate, breaking our hearts. Widely distributed Hubble Space Telescope images showed the comet in multiple pieces. Now there’s news about the comet again. Veteran comet observer Terry Lovejoy reported on Twitter earlier today (May 9, 2020) that he observed the comet brightening over the past several nights:

Just when we thought it was all over for Comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) the comet starts to brighten again. Here I document a steady increase in the brightness of the central condensation over 4 nights. Images come courtesy @iTelescope_Net T11 scope at Mayhill, NM.

— Terry Lovejoy (@TerryLovejoy66) May 9, 2020

That’s all we know so far. It’s likely just a temporary surge. By the way, in case you’re wondering, we trust Terry Lovejoy to provide an accurate report on the comet’s changing brightness. He’s discovered six comets himself and taken countless wonderful images of comets. Thank you, Terry!

As astronomers know … comets are unpredictable. We’ll keep you updated if we hear more.

Bottom line: Images from veteran comet observer Terry Lovejoy show Comet ATLAS brightening from May 5 to May 9, 2020.

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Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

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