Many of you have been on comet watch as C/2020 F3, better known as Comet Neowise, has been putting on quite the sky show recently. However, for those of you not inclined to get up pre-dawn to catch a glimpse, have we got the video for you.
Not only do you get to see the comet in all its glory, but you also get to watch it rising above Earth with the Sun, thanks to spectacular footage from the International Space Station (ISS) that UK-based graphic artist Seán Doran has edited into a beautiful time-lapse video.
Discovered back in March, the comet has been visible to the naked eye for most of July, having survived its trip around the Sun on July 3, and now it's making its way towards Earth on its way out of the Solar System, giving photographers the chance to snap some pictures of a lifetime.
Astronauts aboard the ISS take hundreds of photos as they look down on Earth, sharing with us the spectacular views from their unique position and uploading them to a NASA image archive. Doran, who regularly processes NASA space imagery, edited the photographs into a time-lapse image sequence and converted it into a real-time video.
Sharing the video on twitter, Doran wrote: “Grab a cold beverage, turn off the lights, get undressed, get comfortable, and pop this on the big TV.”
We highly recommend doing just that (but in case you're in a hurry, the comet appears at 3.17).
The comet isn’t the only phenomenon captured in these images. The video also features a beautiful green airglow as the Sun rises and noctilucent, or “night-shining,” clouds.
An airglow is the natural “glow” of Earth’s atmosphere as Sunlight interacts with the molecules in the atmosphere. Nightglow, which shines brightest in green, is caused by Sunlight depositing energy into the atmosphere during the day, which is transferred to oxygen molecules. This extra energy causes the molecules to rip apart, forming individual oxygen atoms. When they eventually recombine, it releases energy in the form of light. Noctilucent clouds, however, glow blue, caused by the Sunlight bouncing off the ice particles in the upper atmosphere.
These views are incredible to us back on Earth, but if you're wondering if they get a bit old hat if you live on the ISS, the answer is no, space can still blow astronauts away. Speaking to The New York Times' The Daily Podcast from the ISS last week, astronaut Bob Behnken described being excited at seeing such an awesome sight and being able to share it.
"Right before the Sun came up, that comet became visible during that short period of time when it was still close to the Sun, but the Sun was still hidden by the Earth," Behnken said.
"It was just an awesome sight to be able to see, and something that we try to capture. In the few moments that we do have to look out the window, we try to... capture the exciting things that we can see to try to share our view with the folks back home, the folks that are still down on Earth, and just try to give them an appreciation for just how beautiful our planet is and how important it is that we do our best to take care of it."