CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) – A newly discovered comet roams Earth and offers a breathtaking night show after it hums the sun and widens its tail.
The comet Neowise – the brightest comet that has been visible from the northern hemisphere for a quarter of a century – entered Mercury’s orbit a week ago. Due to the proximity to the sun, dust and gas burned the surface and formed an even larger wreckage. Now the comet is on the way, with the next approach in two weeks.
Scientists involved in the mission said the comet was about 5 kilometers in diameter. Its core is covered with sooty material that dates back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
The comet will be visible in the northern hemisphere until mid-August when it returns to the outer solar system. While it is visible to the naked eye in the dark sky with little or no light pollution, NASA requires binoculars to see the long tail.
It will take approximately 7,000 years for the comet to return. “So I wouldn’t recommend waiting for the next round,” said telescope deputy chief investigator Joe Masiero of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
He said it was the brightest comet for stargazers in the northern hemisphere since the mid-1990s.
Astronauts on board the International Space Station have already caught a glimpse.
NASA’s Bob Behnken shared a spectacular photo of the comet on social media late Thursday, with Central Asia in the background and the space station in the foreground.
“Stars, cities, spaceships and a comet!” he tweeted from orbit.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
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