Comet NEOWISE: Once in 6800-year opportunity

Comet NEOWISE: Once in 6800-year opportunity

C/2020 F3 or Comet NEOWISE is a retrograde comet with a near-parabolic orbit discovered on March 27, 2020. It was discovered by astronomers using the NEOWISE Space Telescope. At that time it was a 10th-magnitude comet, located 2 AU away from the Sun and 1.7 AU away from the Earth.

Comet NEOWISE has caught the attention of the skygazers in India. As they will be able to get a glimpse of the celestial event from July 14 onwards. The comet will be visible to the naked eyes for more than 20 minutes every day for 20 days.

On July 14, the comet was visible an hour before the dawn sky. This will continue in mid-July. However, the comet will be visible in the evening later this month before it starts to fade away in August. It will be visible only through binoculars and telescopes before disappearing next month as it enters the outer orbit of our solar system. It will be closest from Earth on July 22 as the distance will be 64 million miles or 103 million kilometres as it crosses the planet’s orbit.

How can you see Comet NEOWISE

We have already discussed the whereabouts of NEOWISE. So now let’s talk about how you can see this comet which comes just once in every 6800 years. To be more specific it’s 6766 years.

Firstly, try to get away from city lights and set up in a location with a clear, unobstructed view of the north-west horizon. Then, find out what time your local sunset is. You’ll have to wait until 45 minutes after sunset before hunting the comet.

“What you want to do is go out right around the time that the first stars start to show up. You’re not going to be able to see it before that,” Masiero said. “It’s probably about as bright as some of the stars in the Big Dipper.”

To the unaided eye, Comet NEOWISE will look like a fuzzy star with a bit of a tail. But binoculars or a small telescope offer a much better view.

More about Comet NEOWISE

Officially known as C/2020 F3, Comet NEOWISE was first discovered by the infrared-optimized NEOWISE spacecraft. The name is the short form of Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Space Explorer. Since then the comet has been spotted by several space telescope and observatories, astronauts on the International Space Station and, of course, stargazers on Earth.

The light from the comet is sunlight reflecting off the dazzling tail of gas and dust trailing away from NEOWISE as it drifts ever farther from the sun. A second tail made of ionized particles blown back from the comet’s head (called its “coma”) by the solar wind can be seen in some photos.

“This comet is about 3 miles (5 kilometres) across, and most comets are about half water and half dust,” said NEOWISE science team co-investigator Emily Kramer of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who used that statistics to calculate just how much water is in Comet NEOWISE.

“It’s about 13 million Olympic swimming pools of water,” she added. “So that’s a lot of water.”

The comet is moving at about 40 miles per second – that’s about 144,000 mph or 231,000 km/h – but poses no threat to Earth, Masiero said.

“There is no risk to the planet from this,” he added. “It’s very far away from us, and it’s not coming anywhere near us, so there is no threat.”

“The fact that we can see it is really what makes it unique. It’s quite rare for a comet to be bright enough that we can see it with the naked eye or even with just binoculars,” Kramer said. The last time we had a comet, this bright was Comet Hale-Bopp. It was discovered in 1995 by the astronomer Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp via telescope.

Summing Up

If you snap an amazing photo or video of Comet NEOWISE, then let us know in the comment section. You can also send the pic that you clicked

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