Comet that may be the 'brightest in 20 years' will soar across sky this month – how to spot it

IF you've ever wanted to see a shooting star you stand a good chance this month.

Experts think that Comet Atlas will soon be visible to the naked eye for people in the Northern Hemisphere.

Comet Atlas, officially known as C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), seems to be getting a tail.

Currently it can be observed through binoculars travelling between the constellations known as the Big Dipper and the Giraffe.

The comet hasn't reached its peak yet but when it does it may be the brightest comet seen from Earth in 20 years.

Some stargazers and planetary photographers have already observed the comet including Damien Peach who tweeted: "A tail is starting to develop. Lets hope it lives up to expectations – a decent comet is long overdue!"

Comet tails are made up of dust and gas.

This dust and gas gets illuminated by the Sun as the comet travels closer to Earth.

Nasa recently featured a picture of the comet taken at the end of March as its Astronomy Picture of the Day.

The comet was discovered by the NASA-funded ATLAS (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System) survey.

It was the last comet to be discovered in 2019.

How to see Comet Atlas

The comet is currently travelling away from the Big Dipper.

It's predicted to be at its best at the end of April or the beginning of May.

This is because it will be closer to the Sun at this point.

If you can wait until April 30, there's a chance you'll be able to see the comet with your naked eyes.

Look west in the sky just after sunset.

Locate planet Venus and the bright star Capella and you should be able to spot the comet and its tail.

If you're struggling to see anything try using a pair of binoculars.

What's the difference between an asteroid, meteor and comet?

Here's what you need to know, according to Nasa…

  • Asteroid: An asteroid is a small rocky body that orbits the Sun. Most are found in the asteroid belt (between Mars and Jupiter) but they can be found anywhere (including in a path that can impact Earth)
  • Meteoroid: When two asteroids hit each other, the small chunks that break off are called meteoroids
  • Meteor: If a meteoroid enters the Earth's atmosphere, it begins to vapourise and then becomes a meteor. On Earth, it'll look like a streak of light in the sky, because the rock is burning up
  • Meteorite: If a meteoroid doesn't vapourise completely and survives the trip through Earth's atmosphere, it can land on the Earth. At that point, it becomes a meteorite
  • Comet: Like asteroids, a comet orbits the Sun. However rather than being made mostly of rock, a comet contains lots of ice and gas, which can result in amazing tails forming behind them (thanks to the ice and dust vapourising)


In other space news, stargazers will be treated to the site of a Pink Moon next week.

Nasa astronauts could build Moon base using their own PEE and lunar dirt to make ‘space concrete’.

And, the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed new data about what may be the most powerful cosmic storm in the universe.

Will you be looking out for this comet? Let us know in the comments…

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