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Thursday, 9 July 2020

Signs and wonders: Comet NEOWISE: The incredibly beautiful Comet Neowise is now visible to the naked eye and can best be seen just before dawn but by mid-month, it will shift to evening skies

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) on July 7, 2020, from Landers, California, United States, credit Dbot3000

Signs and wonders: The incredibly beautiful Comet Neowise is now visible to the naked eye and can best be seen just before dawn. According to Spaceweather.com, Comet Neowise is currently shining about as brightly as a 2nd magnitude star. Its core and part of its tail are easy naked-eye objects from dark, clear sites.

Framed by the colours of sunrise, it is arguably the most beautiful comet in many years. But... The last truly Great Comet was Hale-Bopp in 1997. Shining 10 times brighter than Comet NEOWISE does now, Hale-Bopp was visible to the unaided eye for an astonishing 18 months, and its tail stretched as much as 45 degrees across the sky. Comet NEOWISE doesn't come close to those thresholds of splendour.

Comet Neowise is now a worldwide sensation. It will remain a morning comet for the next ~week, then, by mid-month, it will shift to evening skies where casual stargazers can see it without waking at the crack of dawn.

Comet Neowise passed closest to the Sun on July 3, 2020, and if it continues to survive perihelion 0.29 AU (43 million km) from the Sun, it is expected to remain visible to the naked eye in July. By June 10, 2020, as the comet was being lost to the glare of the Sun, it was apparent magnitude 7. When the comet entered the field of view of SOHO LASCO C3 on June 22, 2020, the comet had brightened to magnitude 3.


As of July, Comet Neowise has brightened to magnitude +1, far exceeding the brightness attained by C/2020 F8 (SWAN), and the comet has developed a second tail. One tail is made of dust and the other tail is made of gas. The comet will be less than 20 degrees from the Sun from June 11, 2020, until July 9, 2020. Closest approach to Earth will occur July 23, 2020, at a distance of 0.69 AU (103 million km). This perihelion passage will increase the comet's orbital period from about 4500 years to about 6800 years according to Wikipedia.

Space Weather 2020

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