Comet Alert ! Mercury Watch….Goodbye Venus !

While the world is under pressure to sit at home due to the current Covid crisis, the sky is full of novelty. Not one but two comets are suddenly brightening up and lit up the evening sky with their pristine beauty.

For those fortunate ones in Green Zone and those who have access to clear skies, here are the maps to identify the green comet with naked eye visibility.

Comet Swan has brightened to be seen un-aided. It is shining bright at 3 magnitude, which means as bright as any other star easily seen from Mumbai type sky. If setting sky is seen from your location, then after Sunset look west. You will see Moon and next to it will be Mercury tonight.  Extend the line from Moon to Mercury straight ahead to reach Capella. Towards horizon, as the same distance from Moon to Capella is Comet Swan.

Fig. 1: Overview Map of Comet Swan

The best chance to see Comet C/2020 F8 SWAN is probably on 2nd June 2020. It will be sitting just next to bright star Capella. It will be bright enough and if you see Capella, there is no chance of you missing Comet Swan. Capella ( ) is 0.8 magnitude blue giant star in Auriga constellation and will set around 20:40 on that day. Comet will be around 4th magnitude and there are fairly high chances of seeing it using a small binocular. The map is as below.

Fig. 2: SWAN and Capella

For many of you today might be best chance to see Mercury. If you find the Moon, just next to it is Mercury simmering bright at -0.4 magnitude. Towards horizon forming a triangle is bright Venus. Tonight, the phase of Moon and Venus will appear almost the same !  It is good-bye time for Venus and it will not be seen after few days.

Fig. 3: Moon-Mercury-Venus, the dominating triplet of evening sky tonight

Just to continue on planets….there are good number of planets in morning sky too.  Jupiter, Saturn and Mars line up post midnight and are all bright to be seen clearly.

Fig. 4: Jupiter top middle, Saturn just below Jupiter and Mars further down the line

One more comet is going to lighten up our skies. Comet C/2019 U^ called as Comet Lemmon will also be visible using binocular. The comet will be around 6 magnitude by end of May 2020 and will steadily climb up to shine at 4.4 magnitude near a-Hydrae called as Alphard on 21 June 2020.

Fig.5: Comet Lemmon brightening up

Article by Dr. Abhay Deshpande

Maps: Cartes-du-ciel

Image Credit:  C. Gloor (creative common license) 

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