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South African Astronomer, Heine Wieben Rasmussen has captured a series of rare images of the newly discovered Comet SWAN (C/2020 F8) while on an astronomy retreat in a remote mountain area in the Western Cape.

Rasmussen said, "I am very fortunate to live in the Cederberg in a dark sky area, where there is very little light pollution. Increasing urbanisation has kept skies in the towns and cities artificially light, so few people have experienced the magic of the Milky Way crossing a star studded sky.


"We have lost our connection with nature on so many levels. It is time to pause and reconnect - looking up at the stars is a wonderful way to regain perspective."


Also, he said there was a short window period of photographing the comet, "As it approaches the sun, it boils and therefore appears brighter.


"But the full moon is visible now and at daybreak, you have the light of dawn at the same time, so if I were to photograph it [on Friday] night, the sky would be too bright because of the moon."


Comets are cosmic frozen gases, rocks, snowballs or dust that orbit the sun, leaving debris behind as they travel across the sky.


The Comet SWAN was discovered on March 25, 2020, by an Australian amateur astronomer, Michael Mattiazo who took the images with the SWAN camera aboard the Solar Heliospheric Observer (SOHO) spacecraft.


The cosmic rock can be found 100 million kilometres from the Earth and less than 50 degrees from the sun, in the constellation of Cetus.


According to a UK publication, the Comet SWAN will continue making its journey closer to Earth and it is reported that on 12 May, the comet will be at the closest point with 0.56 astronomical units from Earth.

(All Africa)

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