Comet NEOWISE is starting to put on a show for skywatchers, and not just those of us limited to the earth’s surface.
NEOWISE rounded the sun on July 3rd, reaching 27.3 million miles (44 million kilometers) from our star. The comet survived this close encounter at high temperature, and NEOWISE has now put enough distance between itself and the sun to be spotted by naked eye observers in light and dark predawn skies – and by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS).
“If we came to a situation at dawn, just before the sun rose, that comet became visible during that short period of time when it was still close to the sun, but the sun was still hidden from Earth,”
reported: Comet NEOWISE could give skywatchers a dazzling show this month. Here’s what to know
For ground-based observers, NEOWISE will rise higher in the sunset sky in the coming days, reaching around 10 degrees above the northeastern horizon around July 11, according to Sky.com Skywatching columnist Joe Rao. (Your clenched fist at an arm’s distance covers about 10 degrees of sky.) The comet will then slide lower and lower in the next 10 days, eventually disappearing under the pre-illuminated horizon, Rao wrote recently.
But the evening observation opportunities will increase as the early morning ones slip away; NEOWISE will begin to appear low in the northwest evening sky around July 12th.
“In the evening, the comet will rise rapidly higher in the sky,” wrote Rao. “On July 22nd, NEOWISE will make its closest approach to Earth, a distance of 64 million miles (103 million km). By July 25th, the comet will appear 30 degrees (” three punches “) from the western horizon. -north-west when darkness falls. And on July 30-31, the comet will pass just north of the beautiful stellar group of Coma Berenices, or Berenice’s Hair. “
The comet NEOWISE was discovered on March 27 this year by researchers who analyzed the images captured by NASA Wide-field infrared detection explorer near Earth spacecraft (hence the name). The current visualization opportunity represents your one shot to take a look at the long-run comet, which will not return to our neck of cosmic woods for thousands of years.
The fireworks from last night, for real. Why science. #NEOWISE #comet pic.twitter.com/IKcJ1wLFAlJuly 5, 2020
Behnken conducted yesterday’s video interview with other NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Chris Cassidy. The trio spoke to Fox News and USA Today in addition to The New York Times.
Cassidy commands the current ISS Expedition 63, which also includes Behnken, Hurley and Russian cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner. Behnken and Hurley reached the laboratory in orbit on May 31 aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which became the first ever private spaceship to transport astronauts to Earth’s orbit.
The Crew Dragon mission, a test flight known as Demo-2, will end in the next month or so; NASA officials have not yet revealed a targeted launch date. If everything continues to work well with Demo-2, SpaceX will be clear to begin launching contracted crewed missions to and from the ISS for NASA. The first of these flights, known as Crew-1, is scheduled to launch on August 30th.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.