This long-exposure photograph taken on August 12, 2013 shows the Milky Way in the clear night sky near Yangon
This long-exposure photograph taken on August 12, 2013 shows the Milky Way in the clear night sky near Yangon

Atlas: Newly-discovered comet heading closer to Earth and could soon be visible with naked eye

Sight could be 'really, really stunning' within weeks

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 01 April 2020 09:47

A newly discovered comet is heading closer to Earth and getting brighter, experts say.

Within weeks the sight could be "really, really stunning", according to scientists who are tracking it.

The object – known as Comet Atlas – could soon be so bright that it is visible moving among the stars.

It was only discovered at the very end of 2019 and is rapidly getting brighter as it comes towards the inner solar system.

Atlas will reach its closest point to Earth in May, by which point its greenish hue may be visible to the naked eye.

"It’s definitely a promising comet," Daniel Brown, from Nottingham Trent University, told The Times.

"It’s pushing towards a level that by the end of April could look really, really stunning.”

Much is still unknown about the object, and astronomers cannot be certain how bright it will be by the time it arrives.

It is already getting brighter than initial calculations had suggested. Between February and March, it became around 4,000 times brighter.

When it does arrive, even if it is bright enough to be seen, it may still appear somewhat fuzzy as comets often do.

When looking at such objects, astronomers advise that people use a trick called "averted vision". That means looking off slightly to the side of the thing you want to see, while keeping your concentration on it, which makes it easier to see because of the structure of the eye.

After May, Atlas will continue its journey towards the centre of our solar system, getting closer to the Sun. That will make it harder to see

It is expected to come back around in June – when it may be visible again – on its way back out of our neighbourhood and out of sight once more.

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