Surprise in the south, disappointment in the north

C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS)
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At the time of the disintegration of the unfortunate comet C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS), the discovery of a new hopeful comet was announced. On March 25, 2020, Australian amateur astronomer Michael Mattiazzo, who spent more time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, discovered his eighth comet. He made his discoveries not in the classical way, but by analyzing photographs from the Solar Wind Anisotropies (SWAN) camera of the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft, which has been examining the Sun since 1996. The name of the comet was therefore given in each case by the SWAN sent by astronomers into space to study the interaction between the solar wind and interstellar matter.

Based on the track calculations and its brightness, we rightly hoped that we might be able to forget the disappointment caused by C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS). This expectation was heightened by the fact that at the end of April, brightness was estimated at around 5.5 magnitude in the southern hemisphere. At the end of the month, the more beautiful pictures of the bright coma and the multi-degree tails rained down on a daily basis. As the days went by, the wait became more and more pessimistic. As early as May, experts wrote that a coma reminiscent of a hammer head suggests that the comet is showing such strong activity that it will disintegrate. In the first days of May, the last observations in the southern hemisphere already showed a decrease in brightness, although due to the proximity to the horizon, it was difficult to make professional estimates. In mid-May, it was difficult to observe due to the proximity of the Sun. In the days after the perihelion, some of the northern observers tried in the dawn sky, but could not report the great spectacle, several made negative perceptions.

A very spectacular comet shining in the southern sky, it also became observable from Hungary at the end of May. Unfortunately, we were still unlucky in the northern hemisphere, as the comet had lost much of its brightness and had not even pulled a spectacular plume. Contrary to hopeful predictions, I could only observe with binoculars, it was unlikely with the naked eye. Taking this photo was made extremely difficult by the fact that the comet was only visible at an altitude of 9 degrees above the horizon and, moreover, the dawn had already begun. By the beginning of June, the comet was about 10 magnitude and had become an increasingly insignificant celestial body due to unfavorable observation conditions. Two of this year’s three bright comets surrendered. Will the third comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) bring the end of the northern years of need? As I write these lines, I’m still confident!

This photo was taken with the support of the Nation's Young Talent Scholarship, announced by Ministry of Human Resources, the Human Resources Support Manager and the National Talent Program.

Name:

C/2020 F8 (SWAN)

Constellation:

Perseus

Coordinates:

R.A. 03 h 27 m 33 s Dec. +42° 55′ 18″

Type:

Comet

Distance from Sun: 

68 million km

Distance from Earth:

107 million km

Apparent size:

Coma: 5'; tail: 5' (PA 300°)

Brightness:

7.1m

Sidereal period:

4,488 years

Velocity:

63 km/s

Elongation:

23°

Date:

22/05/2020 01:10-01:20 UT

Total exposure time:

5 minutes

Location:

Tápióbicske, Pest, Hungary

Camera:

Canon EOS 1300D (modified)

Telescope:

Sky-Watcher Esprit 80/400 mm apochromatic refractor

Mount:

Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro GoTo

Guiding:

Lacerta MGEN-II

Corrector:

Sky-Watcher Field Flattener

Focal ratio, length:

f/5, 400 mm

ISO:

1600

Light:

10 x 30 s

Dark:

10

Flat:

15

Bias:

30

Processing:

Astro Pixel Processor, PixInsight, Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop

Location

Annotation

Animation

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Location in the Solar System

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C/2020 F8 (SWAN)

Main objects: C/2020 F8 (SWAN), IC 1934