Seen here in the pre-dawn sky over the California desert, the comet NEOWISE is about to become
… [+] post-sunset object instead, making it the most spectacular comet to adorn the earth’s sky in 13 years. Dbot3000 / Wikimedia Commons
From time to time, large frozen objects pass through the inner solar system.
C / 2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) is a long period comet discovered on August 17, 2014 by Terry Lovejoy. This
… [+] Photograph was taken in Tucson, Arizona, using a 100mm APO Sky-Watcher telescope and an SBIG STL-11000M camera. As spectacular as this photograph was, this comet was not visible to the naked eye. John Vermette / Wikimedia Commons
As they get closer to the Sun, the ice sublimes, emitting volatile gases.
ESA’s Rosetta mission had a close encounter with comet 67P / Churyumov-Gerasimenko, imagining its
… [+] degassing of volatiles closely for a long period of time. ESA / Rosetta / NAVCAM
Dust and ions are blown out, creating spectacular cometary tails.
When comet ISON entered the inner solar system, it developed a set of tails that almost pointed
… [+] directly away from the sun. It grazed on the Sun at a distance of less than 2 million km and then disintegrated from its close approach. It could have been a great spectacular comet, but it was destroyed by the Sun. Adam Block / Mount Lemmon SkyCenter / University of Arizona
From Earth, these comets generally appear the brightest on the closest approach.
This 1997 composite image shows Comet Hale-Bopp, the last “great comet” to visit Earth, on a
… [+] bright cityscape. Note the presence of two Hale-Bopp tails, a shiny dust tail and a bluish ion tail in a straight line. (Educational Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images) Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Comets bright with the naked eye are rare, Hale-Bopp from 1997 being our most recent “great comet”.
Comet McNaught, as imagined in 2006 from Victoria, Australia. The tail of dust is white and diffuse (and
… [+] curved), while the ionic tail is thin, narrow, blue and points directly away from the Sun. Soerfm / Wikimedia Commons
Since then, only the 2007 McNaught comet has been comparable, primarily to observers in the southern hemisphere.
At the moment, the comet NEOWISE is at magnitude +1, but its luminosity is incredibly diffuse, which makes
… [+] it is difficult to see with the naked eye alone. But that has an excellent chance of changing over the next 2 weeks. Ballota / Wikimedia Commons
But in July 2020, comet NEOWISE will present the largest comet show on Earth in 13 years.
A telescopic close-up of the comet Lovejoy (C / 2014 Q2) from January 17, 2015, showing the structure of the
… [+] tail of ionic gas, in the form of streamers and discontinuities. The green color in a coma is unmistakable, and is often the sign of a spectacular radiance. Thanks to a similar configuration, the current comet NEOWISE could appear even more spectacular. (Alan Dyer / VW PICS / UIG via Getty Images)
With an orbital period of 6800 years, it appeared for the last time before the invention of the wheel.
Comet NEOWISE made its approach closest to the Sun (perihelion) on July 3, 2020, and will make its
… [+] closest to Earth 20 days later, July 23, 2020. It was a comet before dawn before July 12/13, and will become a comet after sunset after that. NASA
On July 3, 2020, he reached perihelion, surviving a perilous encounter with the Sun.
Shown here in the pre-dawn sky above Lick Observatory on July 7, 2020, the comet NEOWISE is about to
… [+] transition from a comet before dawn to a comet after sunset, where it should be enjoyable for a myriad of observers of medium to high latitude in the northern hemisphere. Elinor Gates / UCO Lick Observatory
Since then, he has honored our pre-dawn sky, but the relative movement changes everything.
Comet NEOWISE will follow the trajectory illustrated here throughout 2020, seen from Earth,
… [+] compared to the stars in the sky. Note how fast it seems to move throughout the month of July, when it comes closest to the Sun (the 3) and the Earth (the 23). Tomruen / Wikimedia Commons
On July 12/13, 2020, the comet NEOWISE finally becomes visible after sunset.
Comet Neowise (C / 2020 F3) was captured here on July 11, 2020, above the port of Molfetta in the
… [+] after sunset, marking one of the very first times that this comet was visible from Earth after sunset, rather than in the pre-dawn sky. (Davide Pischettola / NurPhoto via Getty Images) NurPhoto via Getty Images
Although it is brighter than all stars, with the exception of around 20, its wide and diffuse nature makes it a challenge for human eyes.
Shortly after sunset on July 13, 2020, before the sky is completely dark, the comet NEOWISE will appear
… [+] under the “ladle” of the Big Dipper. It will be particularly visible to viewers in the northern hemisphere at mid to high latitudes. Eddie Irizarry / Stellarium
It is easier to locate first with binoculars, under the Big Dipper in the northwest sky.
Photographed here in Split, Croatia, the comet NEOWISE appears much more spectacular in the photographs
… [+] than with the naked eye. It can be spotted very clearly in binoculars to someone who knows where it is; it is often identifiable without them afterwards. Ballota / Wikimedia Commons
It will peak on July 23: reaching its closest approach to Earth.
Comet NEOWISE is expected to appear closest and brightest on July 23, 2020, where it appears below
… [+] the ladle of the Big Dipper above the northwest horizon in the sky after sunset. Eddie Irizarry / Stellarium
For many observers of the sky, it is already the best comet of humanity since 1997.
This photograph shows the comet NEOWISE above the noctilucent clouds which seem to be illuminated by the sun.
… [+] either after sunset or before sunrise. This photo was taken from the International Space Station. Roscosmos / ISS Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in images, visuals and no more than 200 words. Talk less; smile more.