DR. SKY BLOG

Could Swan C/2020 F8 be the next bright comet?

May 13, 2020, 2:00 PM
(Flickr Photo/Christian Gloor)...
(Flickr Photo/Christian Gloor)
(Flickr Photo/Christian Gloor)

This year is opening up a new window for some potentially bright comets here in Arizona.

Comets are thought to be the leftover material from the creation of the solar system, some 4.5 billion years ago.

They originate from a vast area of material far out in the deepest regions of the solar system in a region known as the Oort Cloud.

The Oort Cloud is a region of the solar system located at the back edge of the Kuiper Belt and may stretch out as far as 5,000 astronomical units (1 AU is 93,000,000 miles ), to as far as 100,000 AU!

Comets are like asteroids, with surface coatings of some dust and ice and as they move in towards the sun. They heat up the surface material and simply, expel gas and dust and usually create long tails.

In 2020, we have had a few comets that came to the attention of the world that have the potential to be visible with the naked eye.

Remember the great comet Hale-Bopp, back in 1997?

Comet Hale-Bopp C/1995 O1 was one of the brightest comets in many years and was visible in Arizona for many months.

During early February, astronomers had hopes of the comet known as Comet Atlas C/2019 Y4, might become a bright naked eye object in our late May 20202 skies.

The comet has failed that test, as its nucleus broke up into a number of small chunks and seems to have faded a lot.

To learn more about Comet Atlas C/2019 Y4, visit this site.

Dark skies and a large telescope is what is required to find the carcass of this celestial visitor.

But good news may be at hand: a second comet, Comet Swan/ C 2020F8 is slowly brightening and is actually visible in a pair of binoculars.

Comet Swan is an early morning object, low in the east northeast, about an hour before sunrise.

Here is the link to the discovery details on Comet Swan/ C 20202 F8.

The comet is closest to Earth on May 13 at a safe distance of some 52 million miles. Then it will be nearest to the sun (perihelion) around May 24. At that time, Comet SWAN will be at 40 million miles from the sun.

After perihelion, we get a period that will place the comet in the early evening sky, as many comets brighten, after they swing around the sun.

Here are some additional details on how and where to see the comet at its best.

This article will provide you with some interesting finder charts and details on how to best observe the comet.

For those of you with more advanced telescopes and other CCD camera gear, use this live location link.

Comets are some of the most amazing objects in the night sky, as I hope that each and every one of you will get to experience the joy of comet hunting!

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

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Could Swan C/2020 F8 be the next bright comet?