Comet-hunters and stargazers alike have had plenty to talk about this month. The brightest newcomer Comet SWAN has a tail of at least 18 million km long and was discovered by amateur astronomer Michael Mattiazzo from Australia. But he was not looking up at the time – Comet SWAN was spotted online, by studying images from the Solar Wind ANisotropies (SWAN) instrument aboard SOHO, ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory.
Comet SWAN is expected to reach perihelion (its closest point to the Sun) on 27 May. Look for it near the constellation Perseus as it may still be visible through binoculars.
You can still read about the comet’s performance and visibility in the UK. If you missed out on Comet SWAN, there are two more coming our way: Comet LEMMON and Comet NEOWISE will be visible by the naked eye in July. To learn more about these comets, http://astro.vanbuitenen.nl/comets is a good place to start.
If you’re frequently looking for the position of a group of Solar System objects, you can create a quick access page that updates just the data you need. Bookmark it or add it to your phone’s home screen and get fresh data with one click.
We also have access to some e-books that can help you with your observations:
- ‘Comets and their origin: the tools to decipher a comet’ by Uwe Meierhenrich (2015)
- ‘Make Time for the Stars: Fitting Astronomy into Your Busy Life’ by Antony Cooke (2009)
Access to these resources is via Primo; remember to sign in using your University of Aberdeen username and password.
For more information visit the following pages:
Jenna Storey, firstname.lastname@example.org