Comet C / 2020 F3 Neowise is still very close to the Sun (it made its approach on July 3), so we have the last chance to see it. You should not miss the great show, as this celestial body, once it crosses out of Earth’s orbit on its way back to the confines of the solar system, will not pass near Earth again for 6,800 years.
When is the comet visible?
Just before sunrise and, fortunately, it will be visible to the naked eye from the Canary Islands and the peninsula throughout this month of July. To be more exact, on July 23 the closest approach to Earth will take place at a distance of just 103 million kilometers.
In the morning, it will be visible for about an hour in a north-east direction before the Sun makes it difficult to see. In the evening, it will be visible in the northwest for more than an hour. You may be wondering how we can see it both at sunrise and sunset. This is because the comet is quite far away in the dome of the sky. The further north you are, the better your chances of seeing the comet, as it will be almost circumpolar, meaning that it almost never disappears below the horizon.
How to locate the comet in the sky?
We have to locate the constellation Auriga in the northern hemisphere. Its brightest star is Capella , which will help us orient ourselves to the north-northeast horizon to identify the expected comet that looks a bit like lantern light.
Observers around the world, and beyond, are racing to catch this display of natural fireworks before the comet sped away into the darkness of space. Even astronauts aboard the International Space Station have had the opportunity to see it from their particular vantage point on the surface of the Earth.
When was it discovered?
The comet was discovered by NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope, hence its cosmic baptism, on March 23, and passed through perihelion, the point of its orbit closest to the Sun, on July 3, when it was 43 millions of kilometers from our star.
Scientists estimate that the nucleus is about 5 kilometers in diameter, which began to evaporate as it approached the Sun. It is also remarkable that the comet has a lavish tail, about five or six degrees in the sky, which appears to be divided. in two. This assumes that the tail would have a length of more than 10 million kilometers.
It is dangerous?
The comet was classified as a “not potentially dangerous” object, so the only thing we have to worry about is trying not to miss this spectacle of the night sky that will not be seen again for about 7,000 years. It is worth getting up a little early to contemplate it because, as the days go by, it will lose its brightness, caused by the particles and gases around the comet that the Sun ignites while it makes its spectacular flyby.
Fortunately, the NEOWISE spacecraft, launched in 2009, has become an important tool for NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and it was thanks to it that we managed to discover what was initially a bright and fuzzy point that moved across the sky.