If you look to the skies this week, you may notice a mysterious bright light above you.
But before you worry about an alien invasion, thankfully there’s a simple explanation – it’s a comet!
The comet, called Comet C/2002 F8/2020 (SWAN) will be visible from the UK until mid-June, and is believed to be the brightest comet we’ll see in 2020.
Comet SWAN was first discovered in late March in images from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory satellite.
The Royal Astronomical Society explained: “Comets are objects made up of rock and ices – and can be anything from the size of mountains to as big as the Isle of Wight.
“For most of their orbits, comets are far away from the sun, traveling through the cold of space, and they are dormant. When they come closer, things change: they heat up, the ices start to turn into gas, and jets of gas and dust stream out from the comet’s surface.
“Radiation pressure from sunlight and the solar wind then sweep the gas and dust into long tails that can stretch for tens of millions of kilometers.
“These tails can be extraordinarily beautiful, and feature in many of the best drawings and photographs in astronomy.”
Comet SWAN is fairly bright, but fading, and the best chance of seeing it in the UK is in the last week of May through to early June.
The Royal Astronomical Society advised: “With the help of a pair of binoculars the comet should be visible in the north-western sky after sunset, fairly close to the horizon.”
If you don’t have binoculars don’t panic – there’s a chance you may be able to see the comet with the naked eye.
The Royal Astronomical Society added: “Lucky viewers may even be able to see it with the naked eye alone – some astronomers in the southern hemisphere have done this already – but the bright twilight sky and the low altitude of SWAN won’t make this easy.”