Have you heard of the NEOWISE comet?

NASA spots Comet Neowise over Stonehenge

Have you heard of the comet NEOWISE?

NASA has identified a comet that can be seen passing by earth July 14th onwards, and has named it, C/2020 F3 NEOWISE’. This is a rare celestial event as this comet won’t pass by earth for another 6,800 years, so make sure to keep your eyes peeled for a glowing orb gracing the skies!

What is a comet?

Comets are cosmic snowballs that are made up of the remnants of the frozen bits in our solar system including rocks, dust particles, and gases. As these comets orbit nearer to the sun, the gases within them begin to evaporate leaving behind a shiny head and tail, like the kind you see in most pictures. Comets do not have their own light, instead, they reflect the sun’s light and are most visible in the night sky.

 Can we see the comet NEOWISE in India?

Yes, you can! The NEOWISE comet will be seen streaking across the sky in the Northern Hemisphere, enabling Indians to catch a glimpse of it within the next 20 days (July 14th-July 24th, 2020). It can be seen after sunset with the naked eye and will make its closest approach to earth on July 22nd.

 Who discovered this comet and why is it so special? 

It was discovered hurtling towards the sun by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) space telescope, which is the namesake for this comet. Many scientists didn’t think the comet would survive its close encounter with the sun.  However, much to everyone’s surprise NEOWISE emerged from its encounter with the sun displaying a long tail of gas and dust.

NEOWISE is one of the brightest comets that we have witnessed in the past 2 decades. The last comet that put up such a show was Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. It is also one of the few comets that are entirely visible to the unaided eye. 

 How can one actually view it?

– NASA believes that in order to get the most detailed view of this comet one should use a pair of binoculars or a small telescope, although, numerous individuals have been able to view it without the help of these devices.

– Finding a location that is not strewn with light pollution (street light, car headlight, apartment lights) will also assist one in getting a better view of it.

– The best time to view it is an hour after sunset, experts have suggested that one should look 3 fists below the ‘Big Dipper’ constellation as the NEOWISE comet is situated right beneath that.

– To take a picture of the comet, using a tripod and camera device with a long exposure (5-10 seconds) would be advisable.

– The NEOWISE comet can also be tracked using star tracking applications such as Stellarium or GoSkyWatch.  

Zara Shroff is a 17 year old who loves writing and singing

 Zara Shroff is a 17 year old who loves writing and singing. She enjoys writing and is a student at the Ecole Mondiale World School.


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