A lifetime: NASA researchers encourage people to catch NEOWISE comet

For any early bird on an adventure in the United States, it may have seen a small but spectacular pre-dawn astronomical sight — a bright and gorgeous comet that appears in the sky in the early hours of the morning before sunrise,media reported. The comet is known as C/2020 F3 NEOWISE — or NEOWISE for short.

Scientists discovered the rock on March 27. It takes its name from the NASA mission that discovered it, NEOWISE, full name Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Survey Explorer (Near-Earth Object Wide Field Infrared Survey Explorer). The mission, carried out by a spacecraft orbiting the Earth, is tasked with classifying as many near-Earth asteroids as possible, especially those that could be potentially dangerous to Earth. But when the NEOWISE team discovered the object, they knew they had found something special.

Lead researcher Amy Mainzer, of NEOWISE at the University of Arizona, told The Verge: “In the images that were found, it was clear that something had happened. It doesn’t look like a dot and it’s very fuzzy. This is a good sign that it is a comet, not an asteroid. “

A lifetime: NASA researchers encourage people to catch NEOWISE comet

The difference between an asteroid and a comet is mainly ice. Asteroids are usually rocky objects in nature. Although they may have some ice inside, they look more or less like large chunks of dry rock. Comets, on the other hand, are usually a mixture of rocks and various ice — including water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and so on. The ice is well mixed in the comet, and it is this material that gives the comet’s iconic tail. The sun heats the ice into gas that surrounds the comet.

This is what neoWISE is doing. ON JULY 3, NEOWISE WAS CLOSER TO THE SUN THAN MERCURY’S ORBIT, AND THE OVERFLIGHT CAUSED MUCH OF THE ICE ABOVE TO BURN AND ERUPT IN THE FORM OF GAS AND DUST. Also, since NEOWISE is a large comet, about 3 miles (about 5 kilometers) in diameter, that’s why people can see it so much on Earth.

A lifetime: NASA researchers encourage people to catch NEOWISE comet

NEOWISE poses no threat to our planet. In fact, this is our only chance to see the comet with our own eyes. NEOWISE’s path around the sun takes nearly 7,000 years to complete.

For most of last week, NEOWISE appeared on the northeastern skyline about an hour before sunrise in the northern hemisphere. It can be found with binoculars, but some claim to see it with the naked eye. Many astronomical photographers captured spectacular images of comets before the sun came out, including astronauts from the International Space Station.

But around July 11th, the comet will appear on the night after sunset. It will appear in the northwest sky, below the seven stars of Beidou. Mainzer expects the comet to last at least another week or more. But it all depends on the comet’s behavior. “Comets are very interesting and fickle things, and it really depends on what the comet decides to do or how it reacts so close to the sun,” Mainzer said. If we are really lucky, then it will maintain good and active momentum and keep us bright. “

A lifetime: NASA researchers encourage people to catch NEOWISE comet

But this will not last forever. NEOWISE is steadily moving away from the sun, and eventually it will disappear from view and will never be seen by our generation again. The bright tail of the comet will disappear as the comet moves further and further away from the solar system’s heat source. “The comet’s outer layer will start to stabilize again, and it will return to the cold, dark space where it was, ” Mainzer said.

Because it’s a fleeting moment, Mainzer encourages everyone to try to look at this small part of the solar system, especially given the significance of comets. These space rocks have been around since the formation of the solar system 4.6 billion years ago, so they carry the ancient history of our cosmic neighbors.

“Comets are a way to get us into touch with that history and understand where we came from,” Mainzer said. “

A lifetime: NASA researchers encourage people to catch NEOWISE comet

A lifetime: NASA researchers encourage people to catch NEOWISE comet