International Star Directory
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now well visible in the Northern Hemisphere.
It is best viewed with a pair of binoculars far away from big cities.
What is a Comet?
Basically, a comet is nothing more than a dirty snow ball, but much bigger.
With a diameter of a few miles, the average comet is much smaller than our Moon or Earth itself.
Halley's Comet, which was famous in the 80ies, has a size of about 10 x 5 x 5 miles, while the now
visible Comet NEOWISE has a diameter of about 3 miles. Comets are mainly composed of some type of rock,
dust, water ice, and frozen carbon dioxide. Usually, comets revolve around the sun on a very elliptic
trajectory. Hence, they are far away from us most of the time, and visible only for a short period of
time when they are close to the sun.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) as seen from the Alps in Austria.
What can you see?
When a comet gets closer to the sun, it starts heating up. When it's water core starts melting, it starts losig water, dust, rock, and gas.
The gas is ionized by the sun's radiation. Pushed away from the sun, it is visible as a bluish gas tail following the streamlines of the solar wind.
The yellow-white dust tail, in contrast, is more spread out and bowed along the path of the comet.
Visibility of Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is now visible from the northern hemisphere. Right after it gets dark after sunset, it can be seen in the North.
Most people will recognize the Big Dipper high up north in the night sky. NEOWISE is located underneath the right edge of the Big Dipper.
It can best be viewed with a pair of binoculars in a dark place, such as the mountains or the desert. In any case, try to get outside the
big cities, or else it will be difficult to see NEOWISE.
The Comet on your star naming certificate
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