Can you capture the comet’s tail? Scientists need help from astrophotographers

Researchers are calling on amateur astronomers to help photograph the broken tail of a comet on track to pass by Earth this spring. The comet, named C/2021 S3 PanSTARRS, will safely pass by Earth at about the same distance the sun sits from our planet. And as the comet passes through our solar system, its tail may be battered by powerful solar winds, composed of charged particles coming from the sun. With this in mind, researchers from the University of Reading have turned to the public to help study the comet. 

“What we are expecting to see may look rather unusual. When we talk about comets, people often think of a large, bright sphere followed by a long thin tail,” Sarah Watson, a researcher from the University of Reading, said in a statement. “The comet we are observing may look different as its tail could ‘detach’ as it is buffeted by solar winds.”