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Massive Comet Could Soon Be Seen With The Naked Eye As It Travels Through Space

Massive Comet Could Soon Be Seen With The Naked Eye As It Travels Through Space

A comet with a humungous atmosphere could soon be seen with the naked eye as it travels closer to our sun.

The Atlas comet gained its namesake after it was discovered in December last year by the Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System (ATLAS) in Hawaii.

The size of the celestial object isn't 100 per cent known, however the atmosphere surrounding it is reported to be five times larger Jupiter or half the size of the sun, according to Space Weather. That is massive.

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It has been hurtling through space and will be closest to Earth on May 23 before it makes its way past Mercury and then our sun.

Earth Sky says the Atlas comet won't pose any danger to us on Earth as it will be 72 million kilometres away, however it will get agonisingly close to the sun at around 23 million kilometres.

Astronomers have been delighted while watching the comet grow in brightness over the past few weeks.

The Naval Research Lab's Karl Battams said: "Comet ATLAS continues to brighten much faster than expected. Some predictions for its peak brightness now border on the absurd."

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Credit: Austrian astrophotographer Michael Jäger.
Credit: Austrian astrophotographer Michael Jäger.

It has increased in brightness by 4,000 times in just one month.

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As it gets closer to the sun, which will help burn off more of the gases contained on the comet, it could put on a beautiful display over the sky.

According to The Times, Daniel Brown, an astronomy expert at Nottingham Trent University, said: "It's definitely a promising comet. It's pushing towards a level that by the end of April could look really, really stunning."

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People in the north hemisphere are in a prime location to see it and, if predictions on the comet's course and size are correct, could be as visible as Venus.

The Next Web is reckons the Atlas comet could be the brightest seen in the night's sky in two decades. So you definitely won't want to miss this one.

Atlas comet in the night's sky. Credit: Tomruen (Creative Commons)
Atlas comet in the night's sky. Credit: Tomruen (Creative Commons)

At the risk of sounding like a party pooper, there is a chance the comet could heat up too quickly and burn out before putting on a show over our heads.

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"Right now the comet is releasing huge amounts of its frozen volatiles (gases)," said Battams. "That's why it's brightening so fast.

"My personal intuition is that Comet ATLAS is over-achieving, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it start to fade rapidly and possibly even disintegrate before reaching the sun"

We'll have to wait and see what happens.

Featured Image Credit: Martin Gembec (Creative Commons)

Topics: News, Interesting

Stewart Perrie

Stewart Perrie is a Trending Journalist at LADbible. His first job was as a newsreader and journalist at the award winning Sydney radio station, Macquarie Radio. He was solely responsible for the content broadcast on multiple stations across Australia when the MH17, Germanwings and AirAsia disasters unfolded. Stewart has covered the conflict in Syria for LADbible, interviewing a doctor on the front line, and has contributed to the hugely successful UOKM8 campaign.