Comet Swan is a little gem

Comet Swan has been picked up in the morning sky, as forecast, and is apparently a very pleasing sight in binoculars.

Although too faint to be seen with the unaided eye, the celestial visitor is sporting a bright head and distinct tail.

As our chart here shows, the comet (2006 M4) is currently passing close to the star Cor Caroli in Canes Venatici, to the south of the Great Bear, Ursa Major. (Click on the map to enlarge it).

The Moon is rather bright in the morning sky at present, which will not help observers, but the phase is waning and so things will become easier as the month progresses. You can see a rather nice image of the comet at the Sky & Telescope website. (Link expired)

For a more detailed track, you can find an ephemeris here (Link expired) at the website of Jonathan Shanklin, comet section director for the SPA and BAA.

The comet was originally discovered by a satellite instrument, one of several automatic devices now scanning the skies. But on Monday, US amateur observer David Levy, of Arizona, continued the grand tradition of finding comets by picking up his 22nd through his 16-inch reflector telescope. He tells Sky & Telescope about his find here. (Link expired)

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