(TMU) – A brilliant bright-green comet with an incredible 11-million-mile long tail will be visible from Earth all week as it makes its once-in-11,597 years trip through the inner solar system.
The massive comet, named Comet Swan or C/2020 F8, is comprised of space dust, ice, and gas and will be flying past our own planet before getting close to the sun and making its way back through the solar system.
But what makes this one more special than most is the fact that the super bright green comet can be seen by the naked eye, albeit only in a “faintly visible” way, according to the European Space Agency (ESA). However, stargazers who hope to see the magnificent display will be able to get a much better glimpse using only binoculars.
While those in the southern hemisphere will get the best view, those of us in the northern hemisphere will still be able to get a good, if faint, view of it low on the horizon just before dawn.
Comet Swan was discovered in April by Michael Mattiazo, an astronomer from Australia.
The space rock’s bright green tinge comes from the water vapor released into by its icy core as it’s heated by the Sun, forming a hydrogen cloud that surrounds it and gives off its bright light.
As the European Space Agency said:
“The comet’s vigor could be significant for observers on Earth. The more material ejected from the comet, the more sunlight it reflects and the more visible it becomes. Currently moving from the southern to the northern skies, it is just faintly visible to the naked eye, but current estimates suggest that, by the end of May, it could be significantly brighter – if it survives that long.”
Swan is currently about 53 million miles away from our own planet at the moment, and the snowball is predicted to come closest to Earth on May 27. However, comets are such fragile bodies that they tend to fall apart as they come closer to the Sun – a phenomenon common in our solar system, which also occurred last month and foiled expectations that Comet ATLAS would also become very bright.
Current estimates suggest that it could start becoming much brighter if it manages to survive until the end of May, making its way from southern to northern skies. This is because the comet will be ejecting material as it warms up en route toward the Sun, reflecting sunlight and increasing in its visibility.
Comet SWAN has gotten a bit higher for my location in southwest Alabama. So here it is through trees!
SWAN revealed some of the tail. Image Richard Pickard. pic.twitter.com/hUHcDWoPqF
— Con Stoitsis (@vivstoitsis) May 13, 2020
However, amateur astronomer David Blanchflower said that the comet won’t be as easy to see as simply gazing up into the night sky. He told the Express:
“From the UK it will be low on the eastern horizon before sunrise. Won’t be easy to spot. Binoculars rather than naked eye would give someone the best chance of seeing it.
“Into next month it will have a better elevation but not predicted to be very bright so again binoculars or a small telescope would be needed.”
The more material ejected from the comet as it warms up on its way towards the sun, the more sunlight it reflects and the more visible it becomes.
Actually seeing the comet in the twilight skies before dawn will also be made difficult by the fact that the sky is currently lit-up by a bright moon.
Comet Swan will also be difficult to see for those living in the mid-latitudes of the north, with the best views being seen low in the northeastern sky.
Rick Fienberg, a spokesman for the American Astronomical Society, told New York Times:
“By ‘low’ they mean ‘really low’ unless you’re far south like Hawaii or southern Florida. The comet gets higher as dawn breaks, which means it’ll never appear in a dark sky for mid-northern observers. Boo hoo!”
With the comet last appearing near the Earth perhaps around the same time when woolly mammoths were rendered extinct, nearly 12 millenia ago, this will be “almost certainly the only time the comet will be visible in our lifetimes,” according to the ESA.
It bears repeating that while comets have long been subject to misperceptions borne of superstitious beliefs, these distant snowballs pose absolutely zero danger to terrestrial life.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.