Those of you who wanted to wake up before sunrise in order to see the fantastic skies had the greatest pleasure in the world: to see one of the best comets out there in the Northern Hemisphere observers since 1997 when Comet Hale-Bopp made its appearance. NEOWISE has managed to surprise us all. It is, indeed, a spectacular comet.
We have all seen how comets ATLAS and SWAN quickly made their appearance and then disappeared, but with NEOWISE is an entirely another story. This comet is much brighter, and it has a highly condensed core. From June 9, it has brightened 100-fold, and as a seventh-magnitude object, it disappeared. But then, on June 27, it appeared again, and the LASCO-3 camera on NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory seen it shining at a second-magnitude.
And even before this comet arrived at its closest point to the sun, observers were still able to catch a glimpse of it, just before the sunrise on July 1.
The comet has arrived at perihelion – the closest point to the sun – on July 3, being within 27.7 million miles (that’s 44.5 million km) of the sun. Now, it is on its way back into space. But the comet is still visible, and its tail simply continues to grow.
Up until now, the comet could only be seen by those who wanted to wake up at the break of dawn and watch the sky near the northeast horizon. The comet made its appearance with its tail first, then followed by its bright head or coma. It was shining so bright as if it were a first-magnitude star. The comet had to deal with bright twilights, a low altitude, and a near-full moon. But NEOWISE has managed to survive them all and to give watchers a great show.