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Incredible Green Comet With 10 Million-Mile-Long Tail Flying Past Earth Will Be Visible Tonight

by : Niamh Shackleton on : 15 May 2020 14:52
Incredible Green Comet With 10 Million-Mile-Long Tail Flying Past Earth Will Be Visible TonightIncredible Green Comet With 10 Million-Mile-Long Tail Flying Past Earth Will Be Visible TonightChristian Gloor/Flickr/makelessnoise/Flickr

An incredible green comet with a whopping 10 million-mile-long tail will be visible from Earth tonight. 

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The comet will fly past Earth before getting closer to the sun and then heading off back through the solar system. And while you won’t need a telescope to be able to see it, using binoculars may be your best chance at catching a glimpse.

The comet, named Comet Swan or C/2020 F8, was only discovered last month by astronomer Michael Mattiazzo, from Australia.

CometCometPexels

The comet gets its green tinge from water vapour its ‘icy core releases into space when heated by the sun,’ which forms a ‘cloud of hydrogen that surrounds the comet, giving off a bright spot of Lyman-alpha light.’

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According to the European Space Agency (ESA), while the Comet Swan is currently ‘faintly visible’ to the naked eye, it’s brightest point may be at the end of the month.

The agency said:

The comet’s vigour could be significant for observers on Earth. The more material ejected from the comet, the more sunlight it reflects and the more visible it becomes. Currently moving from the southern to the northern skies, it is just faintly visible to the naked eye, but current estimates suggest that, by the end of May, it could be significantly brighter – if it survives that long.

Comet Swan is said to be around 53 million miles away from Earth at the moment, and is predicted to reach its closest point on May 27. According to Forbes, it only swings around every 11,597 years, so we better keep our eyes peeled.

Incredible Green Comet With 10 Million-Mile-Long Tail Flying Past Earth Will Be Visible TonightIncredible Green Comet With 10 Million-Mile-Long Tail Flying Past Earth Will Be Visible TonightPixabay

Amateur astronomer David Blanchflower gave tips on how to view Comet Swan, but advised it may not be as easy as looking up to the night sky.

He told the Express:

From the UK it will be low on the eastern horizon before sunrise. Won’t be easy to spot. Binoculars rather than naked eye would give someone the best chance of seeing it.

Into next month it will have a better elevation but not predicted to be very bright so again binoculars or a small telescope would be needed.

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According to the ESA, this ‘is almost certainly the only time the comet will be visible in our lifetimes,’ as it’s believed the ‘comet’s orbital period is measured in thousands or even millions of years.’

Better get those binoculars out.

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Niamh Shackleton

Niamh Shackleton is a pint sized person and journalist at UNILAD. After studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Salford, she did a year at Caters News Agency as a features writer in Birmingham before deciding that Manchester is (arguably) one of the best places in the world, and therefore moved back up north. She's also UNILAD's unofficial crazy animal lady.

Topics: Science, Astronomy, comet, Comet Swan, European Space Agency, Space, star

Credits

European Space Agency and 2 others
  1. European Space Agency

    The discovery of Comet SWAN by solar-watcher SOHO

  2. Express

    Comet SWAN UK: How to see the glowing space rock at night from the UK - Astronomer's tips

  3. Forbes

    The Truth About Comet Swan, Today At Its Closest To Us. Will This Snowball Put On A Bright Show?