Comet C/2020 F3 — better known as NEOWISE, for the Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope that first discovered it — has came so close to Earth over the weekend that it's visible to the naked eye, blazing brightly over Northern skies. The rare event was captured on camera by amateurs and professionals alike from around the globe — and the results are dazzling.
For instance, just check out this short video from the International Space Station.
Comet NEOWISE from ISS, July 5th pic.twitter.com/qDjDGdmgfe
— TheSpaceAcademy.org✨🔭 (@ThespaceAcad) July 11, 2020
The space rock was about 194 million miles from the Sun when first discovered in March, making it far too faint to see with the naked eye. But over the last few months, the comet has become far brighter as it's approached.
this morning looking north over Lake Superior as the comet skimmed the horizon a little over 1°, the aurora made a brief appearance #comet #neowise pic.twitter.com/ryKiLsE1SX
— Lake Superior Photo (@LAKSuperiorFoto) July 13, 2020
On July 3, it was only 27.3 million miles (44 million km) from the Sun. To put that into perspective, the closest flyby of the Sun by an artificial object was NASA's Parker Solar Probe back in January, passing by our star at a mere 18.7 million kilometers.
In fact, the solar probe was able to get its own look at the comet on July 5, according to NASA.
Astronomers were concerned the comet would not survive such a close encounter, but as evidenced by this weekend's sightings, it seems to be doing fine.
Comet NEOWISE over Stonehenge, UK pic.twitter.com/75SsVvSDF5
— Black Hole (@konstructivizm) July 13, 2020
Its "tail" or "coma" is extremely visible, making it stand out against its predecessors, ATLAS and SWAN, as Space.com reports, which only had very faint paths of condensed heat following their paths.
C/2020 F3 (Neowise) 2020 july 12 UT 21.30, mountain location, 3 panels Tele f-135/2.8 and CCD filter blue,
tail >20° large https://t.co/lOCLdVvutT
Michael Jäger pic.twitter.com/up4FsWs2q7
— Michael Jäger (@Komet123Jager) July 13, 2020
While astronomers discover hundreds of comets every single year, every once in a while a "great" comet passes by our planet and appears considerably brighter. According to Space.com, the last comet that was of a comparable brightness was Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997.
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What an awe inspiring experience. A celestial visitor that has been around since the beginning of our universe. What stories it could tell, what sights it has beheld. How this cosmic being has brought humankind together. Regardless of race, color, sex, creed, age, profession, or any other distinguishing characteristics, we cannot help but gaze towards the heavens and become lost in its beauty. Take a minute to forget everything else going on right now. Just breathe, feel, love. We are all one world, never forget that. . . . Shot on the @sonyalpha A7RIV with the @sigmaphoto 105mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.4 Art lenses. . . #lestertsaiphotography #neowise #cometneowise #discoverwithalpha #sonyalpha #sonya7riv #sigmaart #mykgw #bbcearth #nationalgeographic #koin6news #fox12news #pnwphotographer #mthoodterritory #oregonexplored #pnwisbeautiful #pnwonderland #pnwadventurers #mthood #pnwphotography #portlandphotographer #pdxphotographer #pdxphotography #portlandphotography #comet #nightsky #myplanetdaily #earthfocus #keepportlandweird
READ MORE: Comet NEOWISE could give skywatchers a dazzling show this month. Here's what to know. [Space.com]
More on comets: NASA: Something Is Off About This Interstellar Comet