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Current Affairs

C/2020 F3 Neowise comet

Date: 12 July 2020 Tags: Space

Issue

The recently discovered comet called C/2020 F3, also known as NEOWISE after the NASA telescope that discovered it, will make its closest approach to the Earth on July 22.

 

Background

The comet, which takes 6,800 years to complete one lap around its orbit, will be at a distance of 64 million miles or 103 million kilometers while crossing Earth’s outside orbit.

 

Details

  • Comets or “dirty snowballs” are mostly made of dust, rocks, and ice, the remnants from the time the solar system was formed over 4.6 billion years ago.

  • In the distant past, people thought of comets as “long-haired” stars that would appear unpredictably in the sky.

  • Comets can range in their width from a few miles to tens of miles wide. As they orbit closer to the sun, like in the case of C/2020 F3, they heat up and release debris of dust and gases that forms into a “glowing head” that can often be larger than a planet.

  • Each time a comet passes the sun, it loses some of its material and it will eventually disappear completely as a result.

  • The appearance of some comets, like those that take less than 200 years to orbit around the sun is predictable since they have passed by before.

  • These may be referred to as short-period comets and can be found in the Kuiper belt, where many comets orbit the sun in the realm of Pluto, occasionally getting pushed into orbits that bring them closer to the sun.

  • Astronomers study comets since they believe that they hold important clues about the formation of the solar system and it is possible that comets brought water and other organic compounds, which are the building blocks of life to Earth.

  • Comets do not have light of their own and what humans are able to see from Earth is the reflection of the sun’s light off the comet as well as the energy released by the gas molecules after it is absorbed from the sun.