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What we know about our next ‘naked eye comet’

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Happy Monday and welcome to another edition of Beyond The Forecast!

You may remember a lot of buzz last summer about a comet, NEOWISE, that was visible with the naked eye in the night sky. Many of you sent in photos of the comet and we put together a gallery to show them off.

Now, there may be another comet to see later this year! Its full name is Comet C/2021 A1 (Leonard), but you can just call it Comet Leonard for simplicity’s sake.

The comet was discovered on Jan. 3 at Arizona’s Mount Lemmon Observatory by astronomer Greg Leonard (hence the name).

Astronomers say the comet will reach maximum brightness by mid-December, although that could still be pretty dim (it’s not a guarantee we’ll be able to see it, but the experts say it’s possible). You’ll want to go to a rural area with very little light pollution to give yourself the best chance.

It will be most visible after sunset and you’ll want to look towards the east-northeast sky as the comet makes its closest path by Earth on December 12. Later in the month, the show will shift to the southwestern sky.

We’ll keep you updated on whether Comet Leonard will be worth your time later this year. Just putting it on your radar for now!

Speaking of radar, our local one has been working extra hard lately with all the rain we’ve gotten! Roanoke set a new daily rainfall record Sunday and it may be wet at times through Wednesday. Meteorologist Chris Michaels has a look at our forecast in today’s weather article.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, Southside, the Highlands or elsewhere around Southwest and Central Virginia, anytime at Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we’re posting great weather and science content on Here are a few links from the past week to check out:

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You can also keep up with me on social media. I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, follow along!

-- Justin McKee

About the Author:

Justin McKee presents the weather forecast on 10 News Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 to 8 a.m. He also fills in for other meteorologists during the week.