NASA astronaut Bob Behnken took pictures of the comet from the International Space Station (ISS). (Source: AstroBhnken)
A newly discovered comet is streaking past Earth, providing a stunning nighttime show after buzzing the sun and expanding its tail. The comet will be visible in India from July 14 onwards as it soars across the solar system.
Dubbed as Neowise, the comet swept within Mercury's orbit a week ago. Its close proximity to the sun caused dust and gas to burn off its surface and create an even bigger debris tail. Now the comet is headed our way, with the closest approach in two weeks.
"From July 14, C/2020 F3, a comet discovered on March 27, will be clearly visible in the north-western sky. It will be visible after sunset for around 20 minutes for the next 20 days. People can observe it from naked eyes," said Subhendu Pattnaik, deputy director of Pathani Samanta Planetarium in Bhubaneswar.
The comet will appear low in the northwest sky (20 degrees from the horizon) on July 14, Pattnaik told ANI. “In the evenings to follow, the comet will rapidly climb higher in the sky and will be visible for a longer period.”
NASA's Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet in March. Scientists involved in the mission said the comet is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) across. Its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.
The comet will appear low in the northwest sky (20 degrees from the horizon) on July 14. (Source: @AstroBehnken)
NEOWISE is currently hurtling through space nearly 200 million kilometres away from the Earth.
"The comet will be visible around the world until mid-August, when it heads back toward the outer solar system. While it's visible with the naked eye in dark skies with little or no light pollution, binoculars are needed to see the long tail," according to NASA.
NASA's Bob Behnken shared a spectacular photo of the comet on his social media accounts, showing central Asia in the background and the space station in the foreground. "Stars, cities, spaceships, and a comet!" he tweeted from orbit.