Rare Comet NEOWISE Is Gracing the Skies in July Before It Disappears for 6,800 Years

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE was discovered by a NASA telescope in March this year.

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Rare Comet NEOWISE Is Gracing the Skies in July Before It Disappears for 6,800 Years

Photo Credit: Vishnu Reddy

Comet NEOWISE as spotted by skywatchers across the world at predawn

Highlights
  • Comet NEOWISE will be visible after sunset between July 12-15
  • Skywatchers in India will be also able to see it
  • Comet NEOWISE will start fading away starting August

Lucky skywatchers across the world are currently able to see a newly discovered comet, dubbed Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE at predawn. This comet NEOWISE will reach its maximum point in the dawn sky on July 11 before disappearing below the horizon. But there's some good news for skywatchers, especially for the ones living India as they'll be able to see the comet right after sunset between July 12-15 with just a pair of binoculars or even with their naked eyes. It will make its closest approach to Earth on July 22-23, passing just over 10 crore kilometres from us.

According to EarthSky.org, Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) was discovered on March 27 this year by NASA's Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope - launched in 2009. The comet was closest to the Sun on July 3 at 4.3 crore kilometres that is closer than the average distance between the Sun and Mercury. But over the weekend, the comet was visible from parts of the world at predawn. Even the astronauts aboard the International Space Station were able to spot the comet high above Earth's atmosphere.

"In its discovery images, Comet NEOWISE appeared as a glowing, fuzzy dot moving across the sky even when it was still pretty far away...As soon as we saw how close it would come to the sun, we had hopes that it would put on a good show," said Amy Mainzer, NEOWISE principal investigator, University of Arizona.

As mentioned, Comet NEOWISE will come closest to Earth on July 22-23 and skywatchers across Northern hemisphere including in India, will be able to see it with naked eyes or using binoculars after sunset. The comet will start fading away starting August as it will enter the outer parts of the solar system.

NASA notes that the comet takes about 6,800 years "to make one lap around its long, stretched out orbit," therefore, it won't visit our solar system again for many thousands of years.


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Further reading: Comet, Comets, Comet Neowise, C 2020 F3, Neowise
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