Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE in the distant city lights
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE in the distant city lights

This comet is somehow unexpected guest. It was discovered by a team using the NEOWISE space telescope on March 27, 2020. F3 means it is the third comet discovered in the second half of March this year (because each letter corresponds to a month half). Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE made its closest approach to the Sun on July 3, 2020 – it was 43mln km. This move increased the comet orbital period to 6,800 years. It will made the closest approach to the Earth on July 23.

The comet is easily visible with a naked eye under dark skies. I strongly advise binoculars, because they provide an excellent experience. For observers in the northern hemisphere, comet travels low above the northern horizon moving slowly to the west. In July comet developed second tail and it is the brightest comet since the Hale-Bopp in 1997. Comet nucleus diameter is approximately 5km.

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

I captured the image above with the Canon 800D camera and Canon 70-200 zoom lens set at 100mm. It is stack 20x30s. Both tails can be seen. The thin, straight one is made with gas and ions, and its color is blue. The widespread golden tail is mostly made with dust particles and reflects sunlight.

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE currently (middle of the July) travels across space at 60km/s. It makes about 230,000 km each hour. But since the comet is a large object it seems stationary during visual observations. The interesting fact is, that comet tail is not directed parallel to the comet movement. Comet tail always points away from the direction of the Sun, because it is produced through interaction with either the solar wind particles or photons of sunlight. The thin, gas tail is pretty straight, and the golden dust tail is warped due to comet movement.

C/2020 F3 NEOWISE annotated
C/2020 F3 NEOWISE movement directions

Such a bright comet is a rare guest. If you live in the northern hemisphere take binoculars, go outside the city after the dusk, and observe it. Such a spectacular view may happen in one year again but also may not happen again over the next fifty years.

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE false color
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE false color image

Clear skies!

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