October 25, 2020

Comet C / 2020 F3 (NEOWISE): The brightest comet of the last decade crosses the sky of the Canary Islands – La Provincia


On the night of Friday to Saturday, July 11, the Comet C / 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) at a glance from Gran Canaria and other parts of the Island. The photographer Nacho González Oramas immortalized the passage of the celestial body over the Vega de San Mateo, Santa Brígida and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, from the top of the Island.

Discovered on March 23 by the NEOWISE satelliteThe comet C / 2020 F3, which has taken the name of the NASA space telescope with which it was discovered, passed through its perihelion – the point of its orbit closest to the Sun – on July 3. At that time he was 43 million kilometers from the star and will not receive his visit again for 6,800 years.

These days it continues very close to the Sun and is visible just before sunrise, so there is barely half an hour to observe it, because the light of dawn makes it disappear. Its closest approach to Earth will take place on July 23, when it passes a distance of 0.69 astronomical units (103 million km). From that day on you will be able to look good at sunset. As you are further away from the Sun, it will lose brightness, but the contrast will be greater by the darkness of the night, which will be favored by a thin crescent Moon.

Comets are objects of the Solar System composed mainly of ice and dust, for what they are known as “dirty snowballs.” They move around the Sun following very elliptical orbits, with periods (time it takes to go around) ranging from a few to hundreds of thousands of years. As they approach our star (perihelion), the heat melts the cometary ices, releasing gases and dust particles that form the comet’s tail, which can measure more than a million kilometers. The solid part of a comet is the nucleus, with sizes between 10 km to 40 km.

The Most comets come from the Oort Cloud (spherical cloud located at a distance of approximately 1 light-year from the Sun), although some also have their origin in the Kuiper Belt (disk of matter located between 7.500-15,000 km from the Sun) and are usually short-term ( under 200 years).

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