AMATEUR ASTRONOMERS PHOTOGRAPH A DAMOCLOID: If you've never heard of a "damocloid", don't feel bad; even many professional astronomers don't know what they are. However, there are at least 50 of them moving through the Solar System. Named after protoptype object 5335 Damocles, a damocloid is an asteroid that follows a comet-like orbit. In fact, many damacloids turn out to be comets when, without warning, they suddenly sprout a tail. The latest to make this transformation is damacloid 2013 UQ4. Michael Jäger photographed it on June 23rd from his backyard observatory in Stixendorf.
Discovered in the fall of 2013 by Catalina Sky Survey, 2013 UQ4 at first appeared to be a dark asteroid. On May 7, 2014, however, astronomers noticed a fuzzy atmosphere surrounding object's formerly-inert core. Barely two months later, it has sprouted a tail and is undeniably a comet. 2013 UQ4 swung by the sun in early June, a warm encounter that boosted the activity of its apparently icy nucleus. 2013 UQ4 is expected to brighten to binocular visibility (7th magnitude) by July 10th when it flies by Earth approximately 29 million miles (0.3 AU) away.