A team of experts has identified a gigantic comet that will allegedly flyby Earth and the other inner planets. Throughout 2019, researchers have been monitoring Comet Atlas, which was expected to be seen moving across the Solar System as it was drawn to the Sun. Despite that, data collected in the last week has found that the comet began to fall apart.
New information on a new comet which is set to travel close to Earth’s orbit, Mercury‘s and Venus‘ has been gathered. Comet Swan (C/2020 F8) was found on April 11th, which is expected to show up at Mercury’s orbit in late May.
The comet was first identified by Michael Mattiazzo of Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia, while he was studying data from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory’s (SOHO) SWAN instrument. SWAN is meant to find hydrogen in the Solar System, so for it to detect the comet implies that the cosmic body is currently discharging a lot of hydrogen.
Emitting Significant Amounts of Hydrogen
Karl Battams from the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC said: “For SWAN to see a comet, it means the comet must be producing a fairly significant amount of hydrogen. This is usually in the form of water-ice. It’s extremely likely that Comet Swan is in ‘outburst’ mode. That is, some major eruption happened to this otherwise small and faint comet, releasing a massive cloud of hydrogen-rich volatiles. SWAN is picking up on this sudden dump of hydrogen into the inner solar system.”
If the eruption maintains its current pace, it could mean that Swan will become visible to the naked eye in about a month. Still, Battmas, who also foreseen the death of Comet Atlas, said that this scenario is more probably not going to happen.
“I doubt that the comet will maintain its current impressive appearance, and will quite possibly fade away soon. But we’ve only been viewing it for a couple of days, so no one knows,” he said.
Astronomers from the Lulin One-meter Telescope in Taiwan have confirmed that Comet Atlas is indeed falling apart.