The NEOWISE space telescope has discovered its latest comet earlier this year, March 27. Scientists said that it is a distant and inconspicuous object. Dubbed as Comet NEOWISE, short for Near Object Wide-field infrared survey Explorer and catalogued as C/2020 F3.

The comet was located 194 million miles (312 million kilometers) from the sun and faintly shining at a magnitude of +17 or about 25,000 times fainter than the faintest star that can be seen by the naked eye.

But in July, scientists hope that it will become a tantalizing object in the night sky after comets ATLAS and SWAN fizzled out earlier this year.


Third Comet Charm This 2020

Unlike its predecessors, Comet NEOWISE was able to survive its close approach to the sun (perihelion) and displayed a perfectly circular and well-condensed head (coma) compared to the faint, wispy and almost ghostly coma of ATLAS, and the "hammerhead" looking coma of SWAN.

Both of Comet NEOWISE's predecessors faded away even before reaching the vicinity of the sun. Well before the Comet NEOWISE arrived on July 3, Michal Mattiazzo, a veteran Australian comet watcher wa confident that NEOWISE would remain intact to at least give 70% chance of surviving its close brush with the sun.

Fortunately, it did as it was 27.3 million miles (44 million kilometers) from the sun on July 3. It was subjected to the heat of up to 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit (593 degrees Celsius).

NEOWISE was not expected to get much brighter than ninth or 10th magnitude, but during the spring, observers from the South hemisphere followed the very rapid brightening of this comet as it moves nearer the sun and Earth. According to those who were able to observe it, the magnitude of its brightness was at +9.9 on May 10.

Then last month, in June, it increased its brightness by 12-fold to a magnitude of +7.2. As projected, the comet was roughly 24 degrees from the sun, and the two celestial bodies were rapidly closing together. Shortly after that, the glaring brightness of the sun has already hidden the comet.

But from June 22 until 27, it was within the range of the Solar and Heliosphere Observatory (SOHO) which was station in a halo orbit around the sun-Earth L1 Lagrangian point. Using its Large Angle and Spectrometric Coronagraph or LASCO-3, they can monitor the NEOWISE as it passed near the sun, which appeared to be brighter.

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How to See the Comet NEOWISE This July?

As NEOWISE is about to take center stage, scientists have released two diagrams: one for the morning sky and another for the sky.

The time frames are for the morning when it begins and for the evening where it ends based on the nautical twilight when the sun is position 12 degrees below the horizon, which corresponds to approximately 80 minutes before sunrise and 80 minutes after sunset for those in the mid-northern latitudes.

The lines extend directly away from the sun, which shows the probable direction in the sky where the comet's tail should develop.

Meanwhile, in the morning sky, NEOWISE could be spotted on July 5 or 6 very low above the northeastern horizon. By July 11, NEOWISE will reach an altitude of nearly 10 degrees; then after ten days, it will gradually slide down toward the north-northeast horizon as it slowly disappears.

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