ICYDK an impossibly dazzling entity has been gracing our skies for the past few weeks. Officially dubbed C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) or Comet Neowise for short, it was first discovered on March 27 using the Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) space telescope.
Though scientists mostly ignored it at the time, the comet shot back into their radar after it survived its closest encounter with the sun last July 3. Comet Neowise has been passing Earth ever since, and has mostly been visible to those living in the Northern Hemisphere.
If you’re not at all impressed, keep in mind that Neowise is said to be the brightest comet visible on Earth ever since Comet McNaught zoomed past overhead back in 2007. Not to mention it’s massive too with its size clocking in at five kilometers (3.1 miles) across.
"Just to put it into context, about 65 million years ago there was an asteroid or a comet that was thought to have caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. That object is thought to have been about 5 to 10 kilometers across,” reveals Amy Mainzer, the principal investigator for mission NEOWISE. Now, we know 2020’s been a bad year so far but not to worry, Mainzer says "It's definitely not going to hit the Earth."
As for where it came from, Comet Neowise originated from a part of the solar system made up of icy debris called the Oort Cloud. Subsequently, NASA’s confirmed that it won’t come around again for another 6800 years, so best not to miss it this time.
According to meteorologist Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn, the comet has been visible in the night sky since July 12. It'll eventually reach its closest point to Earth by July 22, with a distance of 103 million kilometers, before continuing on its way into the depths of space.
While Neowise may only be visible to those residing in the Northern hemisphere, we can still catch glimpses of it through the photos taken below, and they're nothing short of spectacular.