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Are you ready for the new kid on the block? Its name is Comet Yi-SWAN and it’s not going to be very long before it’s easily within range of small telescopes and larger binoculars. So where is it at? Head out to the early morning skies for your best look, because it’s rockin’ with the Queen - Cassiopeia.
Discovered photographically by Korean amateur astronomer, Dae-am Yi, on March 26th - word didn’t reach the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts until after it had been independently picked up on SWAN images by professional astronomer, Rob Matson, on April 4. (Now why doesn’t that surprise me?) However, once CBAT astronomers realized that both reports were for the same object, it officially took on the name Comet Yi-SWAN (C/2009 F6).
Right now the new comet is traveling in a highly inclined parabolic orbit, moving slowly across the constellation of Cassiopeia toward Perseus. While Comet Yi-SWAN is currently only a few arc minutes in size and averaging about 8.5 magnitude, it’s going to be very difficult to spot because of the moonlight. However, if you’re interested in catching the latest visitor from the Oort cloud, you just might want to try on Saturday evening, April 11 when Yi-SWAN will be located less than half a degree south of Alpha Cassiopeiae. If you’re clouded out? Try again on Thursday, April 23-24 when it will pass south of NGC 884 and NGC 869 (the “Double Cluster”).