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New Delhi, July 23, 2020
Comet Neowise, officially known as C/2020F3, is the brightest comet that is visible across the globe as it is closest to the earth these days.
The comet, once it disappears, will be visible from the earth only after 6,800 years, according to Nehru Planetarium Director N Ratnashree.
The Director was speaking at the Lockdown Lecture series titled "Comet Neowise – A Primer" to discuss the exploration aspects related to comets. She explained in detail about the comets, their position in the sky and how one can observe a comet through a telescope, DSLR camera or even the naked eye.
‘Comet Neowise’ was first spotted by NASA's spacecraft mission Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) on March 27, 2020, and hence the name Neowise.
Comets are icy astral bodies comprising mostly rocky materials, dust and ice. As they come closer to the sun, the evaporation of volatile contents takes place. When they start melting, the particles start glowing by the reflected sunlight. This makes the 'dust tail' of the comets.
“The Neowise comet has been found close to the sun during early July, which came in the view of NASA's solar mission SOHO, which exclusively studies the sun and its activities. India also has a similar space venture Aditya-L1 mission which is due to go up in the sky, to study the corona of the Sun,” she said.
She also shared images captured by amateur astronomers across the country at different points of time during July 2020. She mentioned how the comet has been visible in cities that have high light pollution.
During her lecture, Dr Ratnashree spoke in detail about locating the comet and capturing it through a DSLR camera. “Point your camera towards the North-West direction and try to take a long exposure shot. Try clicking regular photographs on different days at the same time with the same camera settings to find out the trajectory of the comet with the horizon,” she said.
Though the comet is visible to the naked eye, one may find it difficult to locate it in the sky especially those trying it for the first time.
“Those trying to observe the comet should first locate the constellation the Big Dipper (Ursa Major) or Saptarishi, the seven stars in the sky. Once it is located, try to find the part which is pointing towards Polaris. The comet will be visible in the opposite direction of the Polaris or the Pole Star,” she said.
She also suggested websites that will help in finding out the celestial bodies. Stargazers who are interested in observing such celestial events can use https://calsky.com/ and https://darksitefinder.com/ to find the coordinates of the exact location of the celestial objects.
Also with the help of https://mausam.imd.gov.in/, one can know in advance the position of clouds which may hinder the clear view of the sky. The speed of the wind can also give an idea as to predict the movement and the direction of the cloud over a particular area.
She also mentioned that one should try to have a glimpse of this comet soon as the object is moving away from the sun and is becoming fainter day by day. Even when it is at its closest point to the earth the angle between the sun and the comet is increasing gradually and hence it fades away.
The comet can be seen in clear sky conditions in areas with lesser light pollution and will be perfectly visible when the sky is dark.