This is after many years that you can see a comet with your naked eye in Earth’s night sky, a rare celestial event that occurs after many years.
Nehru Science Centre in its ‘Lockdown Lecture’ series organised ‘Comet NEOWISE – A Primer’ to discuss the exploration aspects related to comets. Director, Nehru Planetarium, New Delhi Dr. N Ratnashree explained comets, their position in the sky and how one can observe a comet through a telescope, DSLR camera or even naked eye.
Comet Neowise officially known as C/2020F3 is the brightest comet that can be seen in the sky and will be visible across the globe as it is closest to the earth these days. The Neowise, once disappears will be visible only after 6800 years.
‘Comet Neowise’ was first spotted by NASA’s spacecraft mission Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) on 27 March 2020 and hence the name NEOWISE.
Comet is an icy small body which consists mostly of rocky materials, dust and ice. As they come closer to the sun there is evaporation of volatile contents from these comets. When they start melting, the particles start glowing by the reflected sunlight. This makes the ‘dust tail’ of Comets.
Dr. N Ratnashree told, “the Neowise comet has been found close to the sun during early July, which came in the view of NASA’s solar mission SOHO, which exclusively studies the sun and its activities. India also has a similar space venture Aditya-L1 mission which is due to go up in the sky, to study the corona of the Sun.”
She also shared images captured by amateur astronomers across the country at different points of time during July 2020. She even mentioned how the comet has been visible in cities that have high light pollution.
During her lecture Dr. Ratnashree spoke in detail about locating the comet and capturing it through a DSLR camera. “Point your camera towards North West direction and try to take a long exposure shot. Try clicking regular photographs on different days at the same time with the same camera settings to find out the trajectory of the comet in relation to the horizon,” she said.
Though the comet is visible to the naked eye, one may find it difficult to locate it in the sky especially those trying it for the first time.
“Those trying to observe the Comet should first locate the constellation Big Dipper (Ursa Major) or Saptarishi, the seven stars in the sky. Once it is located, try to find the part which is pointing towards Polaris. The comet will be visible in the opposite direction of the Polaris or the Pole Star,” she said.
She also suggested websites that will help in finding out the celestial bodies. Star gazers who are interested in observing such celestial events can use https://calsky.com/ and https://darksitefinder.com/ to find the coordinates of the exact location of the celestial objects. Also with the help of https://mausam.imd.gov.in/ one can know in advance the position of clouds which may hinder the clear view of the sky. The speed of the wind can also give us an idea as to predict the movement and the direction of the cloud over a particular area.
She also mentioned that one should try to have a glimpse of this comet soon as the object is moving away from the sun and is becoming fainter day by day. Even when it is at its closest point to the earth the angle between the sun and the comet is increasing gradually and hence it fades away.
The comet can be seen in clear sky conditions in areas with lesser light pollution and will be perfectly visible when the sky is dark.
The lecture brought in all astronomers, space enthusiasts, star gazers and kids who seek to learn and observe heavenly objects and the fantasies associated with them.
1. Malay Patra ; 2. Gautam Deka; 3. Kartik Jayashankar
The lecture can be watched at the following links (in four parts)