An amateur astronomer has used data from NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) satellite to discover a new comet that will be visible in late May and early June.
Astronomer Michael Mattiazzo first spotted the comet in April 2020 using information from a SOHO instrument called Solar Wind Anisotropies, or SWAN, NASA said.
Dubbed comet SWAN, the object has been attracting plenty of attention.
“The comet is currently faintly visible to the unaided eye in the Southern Hemisphere just before sunrise — providing skywatchers with a relatively rare glimpse of a comet bright enough to be seen without a telescope,” said NASA in a statement on its website.
The comet makes its closest approach to Earth on Wednesday, at a distance of about 53 million miles, according to the space agency. Its closest approach to the Sun, called perihelion, will occur on May 27. “Though it can be very difficult to predict the behavior of comets that make such close approaches to the Sun, scientists are hopeful that Comet SWAN will remain bright enough to be seen as it continues its journey,” said NASA.
The SOHO satellite is a joint project of NASA and the European Space Agency.
In a separate project, a 77-year-old amateur astronomer recently helped discover a rare galaxy double nucleus.
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