Comet NEOWISE promises to be one of the most beautiful astronomical sights this Summer. Since its close approach to the Sun on July 3, 2020, it has been visible in the early morning just before sunrise. From July 11, it will become visible just after sunset.
In the morning, it will be visible for about an hour in a North-Easterly direction before the Sun makes it difficult to see it. In the evening, it will be visible in the North-West for over an hour. The comet will be closest to the Earth on July 23 at 103 million kilometers (64 million miles) away.
The researchers estimate that the nucleus is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) in diameter, which began evaporating as it got closer to the Sun. The comet also has an impressive tail, which appears to be split in two. Astronomers estimate the tail is about five/six degrees in the sky, which if confirmed would make it over 10 million kilometers (6 million miles) in length.
The comet, whose full name is C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), was discovered by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission on March 27, 2020. The spacecraft, launched in 2009, was not originally designed to track comets and asteroids, but it gained a second life in 2013 to help track near-Earth objects (NEOs). It has become an important tool for NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
"In its discovery images, Comet NEOWISE appeared as a glowing, fuzzy dot moving across the sky even when it was still pretty far away," said Amy Mainzer, NEOWISE principal investigator at the University of Arizona, said in a statement. "As soon as we saw how close it would come to the Sun, we had hopes that it would put on a good show."
These hopes have been not in vain, as the comet will remain visible over the next month or so. Try to catch it because it will take another 6,800 years before it returns to the inner solar system.