Comets don’t always survive their sojourns into the inner solar system, but a new close-up image suggests the NEOWISE comet—the brightest in decades—has kept it together.
Some 6,800 years from now, our descendants, should they still be around, can expect a return visit from comet NEOWISE. This 3-mile-wide comet (5-kilometer) appears to have survived its recent trip around the Sun, as revealed by a new close-up image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. Its solid core remains intact, pointing to a potential return thousands of years from now.
This comet, formally known as C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), was first spotted this past March, and it turned out to be the brightest comet seen in the Northern Hemisphere since Hale-Bopp in 1997. NEOWISE was visible to the naked eye from early July until mid-August and made its closest approach to the Sun on July 3, coming to within 27 million miles (43 million km), or just inside Mercury’s orbit. The comet is now speeding back toward the outer solar system at around 37 miles per second (60 km/s).
The solid icy core, or nucleus, can’t actually be seen in the new photo, which was taken on August 8, but the image does show some of the gas and dust pouring out from the comet, forming a cloud that measures around 11,000 miles (18,000 km) across. This marks the “the first time Hubble has photographed a comet of this brightness at such resolution after this close of a pass by the Sun,” according to a Hubble press release.
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Comets are best described as gigantic dirty snowballs that formed ages ago in the outer solar system. When close to the Sun, they enter into a temporary active state, resulting in a bright coma and jets shooting off from the surface, forming a long cometary tail.
Some comets don’t survive these encounters, disintegrating on account of heat and gravitational pressures. This happened to Comet ISON in 2013 and more recently to C/2019 Y4 ATLAS, which was supposed to be the brightest comet in decades. Astronomers weren’t sure if the same fate might befall comet NEOWISE.
To find out, Caltech graduate student Qicheng Zhang, along with colleagues, captured the new image of NEOWISE comet, revealing no discernible signs of fragmentation.
“Hubble has far better resolution than we can get with any other telescope of this comet,” explained Zhang in the Hubble press release. “That resolution is very key for seeing details very close to the nucleus. It lets us see changes in the dust right after it’s stripped from that nucleus due to solar heat, sampling dust as close to the original properties of the comet as possible.”
Astronomers will now carefully track any changes to the comet as it moves further away from the Sun, including changes to color of its dust. Ultimately, scientists want a better understanding of how solar heating affects the material within the comet and its chemical comp
Comet Neowise, the most impressive comet in nearly 25 years, is giving sky watchers a last chance to catch it. The comet made its closest pass by Earth on Thursday and rose a little higher in the sky on July 24 and 25. From that point it’s likely to get dimmer as it returns to deep space.
Emily Kramer, co-investigator on the science team for the NASA Neowise spacecraft that discovered the comet, noted that it’s rare for a comet to be bright enough to see with the naked eye. “It’s been quite a while,” she told reporters last week. “The last time was 1995-1996 (with comet Hale-Bopp).”
Over the past couple of weeks, a number of amateur astrophotographers have shared stunning images of the comet captured as it appeared just above the horizon in predawn skies.
Right now, the advice being shared by many of those who have successfully spotted the comet is to first locate it in the sky using binoculars or a telescope. Once you’ve found it and its trademark split tail, you should be able to then track it with the naked eye.
July 5 – my third consecutive morning observing Comet NEOWISE. When I held my 7×40 binoculars to my eyes to search for…
There’s still a slim possibility, for the most optimistic of us, that Neowise might brighten dramatically to become a so-called “great comet” that’s easily visible and spectacular to see with the naked eye. While there’s no strict definition of what a great comet is, it’s generally agreed that we haven’t seen one since Hale-Bopp.
The comet will be visible toward the northwest and western edges of the sky. A good rule of thumb is to find the big dipper and start looking below it.
Here’s where you can spot the comet. Online resources like TheSkyLive also offer similar night sky maps to aid your comet quest.
If you don’t see the comet before it inevitably fades away in August or sooner, you’ll have to wait awhile for its next trip through the inner solar system, currently estimated to happen in the year 8786.
By: Michelle Ewing, Cox Media Group National Content Desk Updated: July 24, 2020 – 4:23 AM
HERKIMER COUNTY, N.Y. — A New York couple’s stunning engagement photos featuring Comet Neowise are going viral.
According to CNN, photographer Tim Leach captured the moment that his friend, John Nicotera, proposed to now-fiancee Erica Pendrak last weekend in Old Forge.
Nicotera told Insider that he initially had planned to pop the question during a trip to Oregon’s Crater Lake; however, he had to scrap that idea because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, he decided to take Pendrak out to see Comet Neowise, which won’t be visible again for 6,800 years, and enlisted Leach to help.
As the trio watched the comet shine overhead, Nicotera knew the time was right and told Leach that the moment had come, CNN reported. Nicotera then dropped to one knee, showing Pendrak the ring. The couple stood still for seven seconds as Leach snapped the photo, which required a long exposure, then celebrated, according to the news outlet.
“Last-minute plan for a memory that will last a lifetime,” Leach, who snapped a second staged photo as well as other pictures of the couple, wrote on Instagram.
Nicotera and Pendrak also shared the images on Twitter, where they quickly went viral.
“Can I get a retweet for what I pulled off last night?” Nicotera tweeted Sunday. “We even saw the [International Space Station] pass by!”
Even though the comet will be closest to Earth tonight (Thursday night), it’s actually already fainter than it was last week because it has been moving away from the sun since earlier in the month.
It’s still visible to the naked eye, but only from dark skies, away from city lights. And you have to wait until well after sunset when skies are actually dark (probably between 10 and 10:30 p.m.), since the faint comet will not be visible in the evening twilight. Binoculars will give you a much better view!
This short video shows you where to look:
Comets are the ultimate heavenly highlight for me, because they are pristine, big chunks of dust, ice and gases left over from the formation of our solar system!
We don’t see comets too often so, when we get the chance, it’s pretty special.
As comets get closer to the sun, some of the ice melts and gases in the comet sublimate. So, as the comet streaks through space, dust and gas form a ball around the nucleus (called the coma), and the tail that we see (actually, most comets have two tails — one dust tail, and one gas tail, which is the more difficult one to see).
And here’s something special for you. Ever wonder what a comet looks like up close and personal? Well, there’s a spacecraft for that. Its name is Rosetta, and it flew to Comet 67P, orbited it, and then deployed a lander, named Philae, onto the surface! Here are a couple of photos of Comet 67P — one from Rosetta in orbit, and another from Philae on the surface!
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Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.
The comet, which can be observed with the naked eye, has been visible since July 7, NASA said on its website. It has been a photographer’s dream, providing incredible images both on Earth and in space.
“Through about the middle of the month, the comet is visible around 10 degrees above the northeastern horizon (the width of your outstretched fist) in the hour before dawn,” the space agency added. “From mid-July on, it’s best viewed as an evening object, rising increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon.
“The comet takes about 6,800 years to make one lap around its long, stretched out orbit, so it won’t visit the inner solar system again for many thousands of years,” the agency explained on its website.
NASA notes that the comet’s closest approach to Earth will be on July 22, at a distance of about 64 million miles.
(Image credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Naval Research Lab/Parker Solar Probe/Brendan Gallagher)
If you spot Comet NEOWISE, let us know! Send images and comments to email@example.com to share your views.
Comet NEOWISE has is delighting skywatchers around the Northern Hemisphere. But what makes this comet so special?
The comet made its closest approach to the sun on July 3 but, until now, was only visible in the sky before dawn. Now, for keen observers in the Northern Hemisphere, the comet has been getting higher in the evening sky, sparkling northwest below the Big Dipper constellation, according to Joe Masiero, deputy principal investigator of NEOWISE (NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, the NASA space telescope that first spotted the comet).
One of the most fascinating details about Comet NEOWISE is that it won’t return to our skies for another 6,800 years. But that’s not the only thing that makes this icy space rock special. So let’s take a dive into what makes Comet NEOWISE unique — and a little weird.
Officially known as C/2020 F3, Comet NEOWISE is a comet that was discovered on March 27, 2020, by NEOWISE, the asteroid-hunting afterlife of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.
Comets, often nicknamed “cosmic snowballs,” are icy, rocky objects made up of ice, rock and dust. These objects orbit the sun, and as they slip closer to the sun most comets heat up and start streaming two tails, one made of dust and gas and an “ion tail” made of electrically-charged gas molecules, or ions.
Can I see it?
Yes! Because it is especially bright, the comet is visible in the night sky with the naked eye. Skywatchers in the Northern Hemisphere can spot the object just after sunset, to the northwest just under the Big Dipper constellation.
In fact, the comet is so bright that scientists are “able to get a lot more and better data than we typically do for most comets,” Kramer said. “We’re able to study it with a wide variety of different telescopes, and that’ll allow us to do really interesting studies.”
No! Because Comet NEOWISE is an especially bright object, it is relatively easy for astronomy enthusiasts to spot it in the night sky with just the naked eye, although binoculars or a small telescope will give you a better view.
“The fact that we can see it is really what makes it unique,” Kramer said. “It’s quite rare for a comet to be bright enough that we can see it with a naked eye or even with just binoculars.”
To those spotting the comet with the naked eye, without any tools or instruments like a telescope, it looks like a fuzzy star with a little bit of a tail. You do need to be away from city lights, though.
With binoculars or a small telescope, the comet will be more clear and the tail will be easier to spot.
There is “about 13 million Olympic swimming pools of water,” in Comet NEOWISE, Emily Kramer, a science team co-investigator forNASA’s NEOWISE at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said during a news conference July 15. “So that’s a lot of water.”
“Most comets are about half water and half dust,” she added.
Does it have a tail?
Comet NEOWISE has two tails that typically accompany every comet.
As a comet nears the sun, it warms up and material pulls away from the surface into a tail. Often, dust is pulled away along with gases from sublimating (going directly from solid to a gas) ice. This dust tail is the sweeping trail seen in most comet images. Comets also have an ion tail made up of ionized gas blown back by the solar wind.
Researchers studying Comet NEOWISE might actually also have a sodium tail. By observing what they believe to be atomic sodium in the comet’s tail, researchers can glean keen insight into the object’s makeup.
How big is Comet NEOWISE?
Comet NEOWISE is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) in diameter, “which is a reasonably large but roughly average-size comet,” Kramer said.
“It’s rare to see something that’s this bright,” she added. “There are comets that are of this size that we see regularly, but most of them are so from Earth that they don’t get this bright. They’re too far from the sun and the Earth to be able to see them in the way that we’re seeing this Comet NEOWISE.”
How fast is Comet NEOWISE?
The comet is traveling at about 40 miles per second (that’s about 144,000 mph, or 231,000 km/h).
Joe Masiero, deputy principal investigator of the NEOWISE mission, said the the comet is moving about twice as fast as the Earth’s speed around the sun. But don’t expect that rapid clip to last.
Because of the comet’s extremely elliptical orbit, it will slow down as it reaches its farthest point from the sun, then fall back toward the inner solar system and accelerate again when it heads back round the sun. That trip around the sun is over for Comet NEOWISE’s current orbit and it’s moving back to the outer solar system.
“And so as it goes farther from the sun, [it] will be slowing down as it climbs back up that gravity well,” Masiero said.
Will it hit Earth?
Have no fear, Comet NEOWISE will not hit Earth.
“This particular comet has no possibility of impacting the Earth. It crosses the plane of Earth orbit well inside of recovery orbit and almost near the orbit of Mercury, so there’s absolutely no hazard from this comet,” Lindley Johnson, the planetary defense officer and program executive of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office at NASA Headquarters, said during the news conference.
The comet orbits the sun every 600 to 700 years, Johnson said. The comet is currently about 70 million miles (111 million kilometers) away from Earth.
Is it from interstellar space?
No, Comet NEOWISE originates in our own solar system. To date, only two interstellar objects have been discovered: ‘Oumuamua and Comet Borisov.
“This one we know it’s not Interstellar object. By watching its motion, we can see that it’s bound to the sun’s gravity,” Kramer said. “So it’s coming in very rapidly and then it’s going to go far back out again and then but then should come back in again in about 6,800 years.”
Email Chelsea Gohd at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.
Pictures of the amazing Comet Neowise have started appear over the news and social media – and if you want to get a picture of this incredible astro event, then this week is likely to be your best chance. With this particular comet not expected at make its return visit to the earth’s skies for another 6,800 years this is something you don’t want to miss seeing.
Comet Neowise, or Comet C/2020 F3 to give it its full name, has turned out to be one of the best comets for people to view without the need for specialist equipment since Comet Hale-Bopp back in 1997. Often comets turn out to be more disappointing than astronomers had hoped – but this one has so far exceeded expectations, and there is still plenty of time to see it for yourself.
It is visible on the northern horizon after sunset or before dawn… as it needs to be dark enough to make out the comet and its tail. You do need to be in the Northern Hemisphere – and of course you also need clear skies.
How to see the comet
But according to Space.com, the conditions for seeing Comet Neowise are now getting better. Up until this week, the best images have been shot in the early hours of the morning, but right now the best views will now be an hour or so after sunset.
“If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, you can see it,” said Joe Masiero, deputy principal investigator of NEOWISE, the NASA space telescope that discovered the comet, “As the next couple of days progress, it will get higher in the evening sky, so you’re going to want to look northwest right under the Big Dipper.” (The Big Dipper is a ladle-shaped star pattern that is part of the constellation Ursa Major, the Big Bear.)
But take note from our colleagues at Space.com “that the best time to view the comet during the evening will come during the 14-19 July time frame.” So if you are going to shoot it, this weekend is going to be the right time to do it!
How to photograph the comet
For photographing the comet, you need a reasonably long exposure in order to capture the comet. An exposure setting of around 5 to 10 seconds is roughly what to expect. For this you will need to use your lens at its widest, maximum aperture – and then set a relatively high ISO in order to give you the correct exposure. An ISO of between 800 and 3200 is what to expect (the exact setting will depend, amongst other things on the maximum aperture of your lens). A tripod is therefore essential if you want sharp shots.
You can use any lens, but the best shots we have seen so far have used a short telephoto setting – so as to get the comet a reasonable size in the frame. A key point is that you should try to find a camera position where you can include some foreground interest – some rocks, say, or a building – that will provide some context to your image.
To observe the comet better, and to see the forked shape of its tail, it is well worth taking binoculars with you.
The comet Neowise has been visible recently from the northern hemisphere, even from light-polluted urban areas like Seattle, and now can be spotted to the northwest just below the Big Dipper about an hour after sunset.
Skywatchers can expect mostly clear skies over the Puget Sound region after the Friday morning clouds and rain dissipate, but some areas along the coast and near the Cascade Mountains might still see lingering cloud coverage Friday night, according to the National Weather Service in Seattle.
Astronomers discovered the comet in late March, using the Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope, according to Scientific American. Officially named C/2020 F3, the comet has been informally dubbed Neowise, after the acronym for the instrument that spotted it.
Neowise will come closest to Earth — a mere 64 million miles away — on July 22. After this appearance, Neowise isn’t expected to be near Earth again for about 6,800 years.
This image was made with a 400mm telephoto lens mounted on a tripod using a 1.3-second exposure, at f8, and ISO 10,000.
Seattle Times staff reporters David Gutman and Elise Takahama contributed to this report.
Thanks to COVID-19, you may not get to take your kids to the planetarium any time soon. But if they’re into astronomy, you’re in luck, because we should be able to see a comet starting tonight. Known as Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) for science reasons, it’s been visible at dawn a few times this month, but will be making the switch to dusk this week. Here’s how to see it.
How to see the NEOWISE comet
According to Earth Sky, starting around July 12-15 (so, today), the comet will become visible at dusk (just after sunset). It will be low in the northwest horizon. If the comet stays somewhat bright, we might be able to see it towards the end of the month during evening dusk, and will appear a little higher in the sky.
Use binoculars for a better shot at seeing it—though some people have reported that once you spot the comet with binoculars, you may be able to see it without them when you know where to look. But, if you want to see the comet’s split tail, binoculars are your best bet.
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So how big is this comet? “From its infrared signature, we can tell (its nucleus) is about 5 km [3 miles] across… and is covered with sooty, dark particles left over from its formation near the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago,” Joseph Masiero, NEOWISE deputy principal investigator at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory told Earth Sky.
It will pass at some 64 million miles (103 million km) from our planet. The good news is that—if the comet continues looking great—the view during the night of closest approach should be nice. Although binoculars might be required for the celestial visitor, it will be visible at the same time we see a beautiful crescent (not too bright) moon.
If you’re interested in seeing NEOWISE, this month is your best chance: the next time this comet might be visible again from Earth will be arou
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – If you’re outside at the right time with a clear view of the sky, and looking in the right direction, you have the opportunity to catch Comet NEOWISE in the upcoming days. This previous story gives all the vital background details on the comet. Here in this article, we deliver your guide to viewing the comet across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio from expert skywatcher Tony Rice.
He’s calculated our best viewing times across the region. Take a look:
morning (low on NE horizon)
evening (low on NW horizon)
3:49 AM – 4:56 AM reaches 7.3° above horizon
10:36 PM – 10:37 PM appears 0.1° above horizon
3:42 AM – 4:49 AM reaches 6.8° above horizon
10:43 PM – 11:00 PM appears 1.4° above horizon
3:35 AM – 4:43 AM reaches 6.2° above horizon
10:50 PM – 11:26 PM appears 2.7° above horizon
3:29 AM – 4:36 AM reaches 5.5° above horizon
10:57 PM – 11:55 PM appears 4.1° above horizon
3:25 AM – 4:29 AM reaches 4.7° above horizon
11:05 PM – 12:25 AM appears 5.3° above horizon
3:21 AM – 4:21 AM reaches 3.8° above horizon
11:12 PM – 12:56 AM appears 6.6° above horizon
3:21 AM – 4:14 AM reaches 2.8° above horizon
11:20 PM – 1:25 AM appears 7.7° above horizon
3:25 AM – 4:06 AM reaches 1.8° above horizon
11:27 PM – 1:47 AM appears 8.8° above horizon
According to Rice, the comet will be most visible before dawn over the few couple days, by early next week visibility will improve after dusk.
When asked if the comet will dim in the sky, Rice says, “Probably. The inverse square law (remember your physics classes?) says Comet NEOWISE will be less than half as bright this time next week. It could dim more slowly, or it could break at any time, ending the show. Remember ‘comets are like cats, they have tails and do what they want’. Also, remember we’re looking through 25+ air masses at the horizon. Isn’t skyience (sky-science) cool?”
Note: Some enhancements to the photos have been made. The photographer notes, “The comet is visible to the unaided eye but is not as bright as these photos (or any other you may see online), of course. It’s more pronounced (looking less like a blurry smear) than other bright comets I have seen, especially recently. Still, it’s dim, so finding that sweet spot between it rising shortly after 4 am when the sky is really dark, and 5 am when it’s above the treeline, but begins getting lost in the twilight, is key to seeing it.”