Those shiny blue dots that we’re all seeing on the night sky are not necessarily stars. Some of them are also planets, comets, and even entire galaxies. The total number of stars in the Universe is unknown to humanity, but it could be much larger than anyone would guess. Therefore, we should consider ourselves lucky to be able to witness at least a very tiny part of the cosmic glory.
Comets come by our cosmic vicinity very often, and most of them are even doing their number completely unnoticed. But it’s not also the case for Comet NEOWISE or C/2020 F3. The celestial object was first spotted in March, but it was barely noticeable. But now, the comet has increased its luminosity a lot.
Ivan Vagner and Bob Behnken photographed the comet
Two of the astronauts onboard the International Space Station, namely Ivan Vagner and Bob Behnken, captured stunning images of the space object on the 4th of July (the Independence Day of the US):
— Bob Behnken (@AstroBehnken) July 5, 2020
C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is a retrograde comet with a near-parabolic orbit that was discovered more precisely on March 27 this year by the NEOWISE space telescope. The comet passed closest to the Sun several days ago on July 3, 2020. If it continues to survive perihelion 0.29 AU (43 million km) from our star, it will remain visible to the naked eye throughout the rest of July.
There are 6,619 known comets discovered as of July 2019, and the number is increasing as they are discovered. However, the number mentioned represents only a tiny fraction of the predicted totality of the comet population. The source of comet-like bodies from the outer Solar System is the Oort cloud, and it’s estimated to have about one trillion comets.
Although comets can become a threat to life on Earth if they’re too big and too close to us, there’s currently no sign for such an event that could happen in the near future.