SA robo-scope discovers comet
A robot telescope near Sutherland has discovered the first comet in 35 years in South Africa.
The South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) said the comet is currently about 180 million kilometres from Earth and will be most visible on May 23.
Dr David Buckley of the SAAO yesterday said on inquiry the comet was numbered C/2015 G2.
Buckley said the “C” denotes that the comet has never been observed before while the “G2” shows it was spotted in the first half of April and 2015 is the year.
Other observatories had discovered 19 other comets so far this year, but this is the first one since 1978 to be found from South Africa. The telescope MASTER-SAAO, which is jointly managed by Russian and South African astronomers, noted the comet.
Buckley said a good set of binoculars would enable one to see the comet in passing, but warned it would probably look like a hazy blob with a tail from a hazy, light-filled city. He advised people to leave the city lights far behind to view the stars from a dark area.
Comets are typically like dirty snowballs, made up by ice, gas and dust, and they melt when they get close to the sun.