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Comet Swan is now visible and could be the best in years

CNET logo CNET 5/4/2020 Eric Mack
a blurry image of a night sky: Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN captured by Australia's Siding Spring telescope. Esposito Raffaele / Telescope Siding Spring / Spaceweather.com © Provided by CNET Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN captured by Australia's Siding Spring telescope. Esposito Raffaele / Telescope Siding Spring / Spaceweather.com

It's looking to be a season for comets teasing skywatchers with their magnificent tails like elusive cosmic peacocks. Comet Atlas seemed to be a big deal earlier this year before it broke up and fizzled out. But just as that promising space snowball was cracking up, Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN was discovered in late March.

Now Comet Swan could deliver on the promise of a rare night sky show that Atlas failed to provide. 

Already Swan could be visible to those with exquisitely dark skies and sharp eyes. Others might also be able to spot it with binoculars.

Astronomer Con Stoitsis said on Twitter that some predictions show the comet continuing to brighten in the coming days.

"It should be an 'obvious' naked eye target in mid-May," he said. 

The comet makes its closest pass by Earth on May 13 and comes nearest to the sun on May 27. 

There're a number of tools online -- TheSkyLive is a great place to start -- to help you find Comet Swan in the night sky. And, of course, the comet also has a Twitter account worth following

Keep in mind that comets are notoriously fickle, as Comet Atlas demonstrated, and Swan could also go from rapidly brightening to fragmenting and fading at any moment. 

With that in mind, it's probably a good idea to try and catch it now. You can look for it while also watching for this week's Eta Aquarid meteor shower, which comes from the leftovers of another space snowball, the famed Halley's Comet. 


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