Comet SWAN: How to see the comet this month – ‘Best comet’ seen in years

Even as humans on Earth remain locked down, the heavens abide. There is always reason to look up, perhaps now more than ever.

The latest evidence of this is the newly discovered Comet SWAN now streaking through the constellation Pisces. If you are fortunate to live in the Southern hemisphere and can find Pisces, you can see this comet, an chunk of dirty, very old ice shedding gas and dust as it nears the sun, as a pinpoint of light, about as bright as the dimmest stars visible to the naked eye

Eagle-eyed skywatchers across the globe can keep an eye on the sky as Comet Swan is expected to pass by the Earth on Wednesday night. The comet, known as the ‘Swan’, is bright enough to be seen through the naked eyes. 

Though, Astronomer Con Stoitsis said that there is no exact time given regarding the comet’s arrival. 

On May 12, the comet will breeze some 83 million kilometres (52 million miles) from Earth and will come to perihelion on May 27, at a distance of 64 million kilometres (40 million miles) from the Sun. 

According to Better Homes and Gardens, the best time to see SWAN in the East-Northeast will be just before the sunrise and it’s really not as much a comet as it is an “outgassing interplanetary iceberg.”

According to stargazing site Aerith, SWAN will be at its brightest over the UK and US towards the end of next month.

“In the Southern Hemisphere, it stays observable in good condition until mid-May,” the site said.

Comet SWAN is currently flying past Earth at an average distance of 75 million miles. It is astonishingly bright for a space object, giving off a greenish glow trailed by a long, blue tail, according to The Sun.

Unlike asteroids, which are made of rocks, comets are largely made of ice and so leave streaking “tails” of debris behind them.

The Ion Tail of New Comet SWAN
Image Credit & Copyright: Gerald Rhemann

What is Comet SWAN?

Comet SWAN was actually first spotted in late March by an amateur astronomer named Michael Mattiazzo, who was looking at the data from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory i.e SOHO. 

Since the discovery in late March, SWAN has brightened into a faint naked-eye comet for the Southern Hemisphere. The comet first made an appearance in images clocked by SOHO’s Solar Wind Anisotropies Instrument on April 11, 2020 and was thus named comet SWAN.

“Normally, I work in the pathology industry, but it’s taken a bit of a downturn since the COVID-19 situation,” said Michael Mattiazzo, an amateur astronomer from Swan Hill in Victoria, Australia, who discovered the comet in late March.

How Far is Comet SWAN from Earth?

The distance of Comet SWAN from the Earth is currently 85,071,778 kilometers, equivalent to 0.568670 Astronomical Units. Light takes 4 minutes and 43.7689 seconds to travel from Comet SWAN and reach us.

How to watch Comet SWAN?

The comet will make its closest encounter to Earth on May 13 and will come nearest to the Sun on May 27

The best time to see the comet will be in the early hours of the morning when the night is at its darkest

For a better look, you could always grab a pair of binoculars or a telescope although these aren’t fundamental to seeing the comet

While the southern hemisphere will get a better view of the comet, it’s still possible to see it in the UK. Some stargazers have even reported seeing it this week

Several online tools can help you detect and predict the coming of the Comet Swan. An excellent tool, in particular, is the TheSkyLive to help you locate the comet’s location at night. Your best bet is to download a sky tracking app such as SkyView (which has a free and a paid-for option) and using it to orientate yourself

On the Apple App Store, we’d recommend Night Sky, which is free and helps you find all kinds of celestial wonders

For Android users, SkySafari should do the trick. It’s also available on iPhone

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