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Following Comet SWAN – The New York Times

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Tracking Comet Borisov - The New York Times

A New Comet

A not too long ago found comet made its closest move to the Earth on Tuesday, at a distance of 52 million miles — somewhat greater than half the space from Earth to the Sun.

The comet, referred to as Comet SWAN however formally named C/2020 F8 (SWAN), is now visible to the naked eye within the Southern hemisphere.

Comet SWAN on May 2.Damian Peach

An animation of Comet SWAN on April 29.Gerald Rhemann

Comet SWAN’s faint tail on April 17.Gerald Rhemann

Finding Comet SWAN

The comet was found in early April by Michael Mattiazzo, an newbie comet hunter who observed a faint smudge on photographs from the Solar Wind Anisotropies (SWAN) instrument on the SOHO spacecraft.

An early picture of the comet by Mr. Mattiazzo confirmed a greenish halo with a faint tail.

Comet SWAN on April 10.Michael Mattiazzo

The comet brightened over time and now seems as a white ball shifting diagonally throughout the SWAN photographs.

An animation of SWAN photographs from late April and early May.NASA and ESA

The SOHO spacecraft was launched in 1995 to review the solar and the photo voltaic wind, however its photographs of the sky have led to more than 3,000 comet discoveries.

An artist’s impression of the SOHO spacecraft.NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Other Recent Comets

Last month the Hubble Space Telescope celebrated its 30th birthday and captured photographs of comet ATLAS breaking into fragments.

Fragments of comet ATLAS on April 20.NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt (UCLA), Quanzhi Ye (Univ. of Maryland)

And in March a fragment broke off of the interstellar comet 2I/Borisov, which swung past the sun in December.

Comet Borisov in entrance of a distant spiral galaxy on Nov. 16.NASA, ESA, D. Jewitt

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