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Comet Atlas lighting up the sky over West Berkshire in April

It could be brighter than Venus

Geraldine Gardner

Geraldine Gardner


01635 886684

Comet Atlas is on its way

A MASSIVE comet which is about half the size of the sun, could be visible in the skies above West Berkshire this month.

Comet Atlas, which is five times the size of Jupiter, is visible from Earth throughout April with a telescope.

You might just spot a faint glimmer with your eyes now if you look west in the sky just after sunset, but the comet is expected to be at its brightest at the end of the month and the beginning of May, when it should become bright enough to be easily visible with binoculars or even the naked eye, because that is when it will be closest to the sun.

When it gets towards the inner solar system, it should be one of the brightest objects in the night sky across West Berkshire and could yield some of the most clear and dramatic displays anyone has seen in decades.

The comet was first discovered by astronomers at the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (Atlas) at the University of Hawaii. Astronomers at the university scan the skies for near to Earth objects to see if they are a potential hazard to our planet.

But the good news is Comet Atlas is not a danger to the earth and will zoom past at a distance of about 72m miles.

Comets are clusters of ice, frozen gases and other chemical elements left over from the formation of our solar system 4.6bn years ago. Their tails are made up of dust and gas. This dust and gas gets illuminated by the Sun as the comet travels closer to Earth. 

Comets are notoriously erratic and unpredictable, however, so it is a case of wait and see how Comet Atlas performs.  

And don't forget there is still time to see the International Space Station (ISS) passing over West Berkshire.

It's been visible all week and you'll have another opportunity tonight, Friday, April 3, at 9.30pm, and a little earlier on Saturday, April 4, at 8.45pm. The next time you will be able to see the ISS is in May.

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