Comet Streaking Past Earth, Providing Spectacular Show

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.—A newly discovered comet is streaking past Earth, providing a stunning nighttime show after buzzing the sun and expanding its tail.

Comet Neowise swept within Mercury’s orbit a week ago. Its close proximity to the sun caused dust and gas to burn off its surface and create an even bigger debris tail. Now the comet is headed our way, with closest approach in two weeks.

NASA’s Neowise infrared space telescope discovered the comet in March.

NTD Photo
The Comet NEOWISE or C/2020 F3 is seen above Salgotarjan, Hungary, early on July 10, 2020. It passed closest to the Sun on July 3 and its closest approach to the Earth will occur on July 23. (Peter Komka/MTI via AP)

Scientists involved in the mission said the comet is about 3 miles (5 kilometers) across. Its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

The comet will be visible around the world until mid-August, when it heads back toward the outer solar system. While it’s visible with the naked eye in dark skies with little or no light pollution, binoculars are needed to see the long tail, according to NASA.

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station have already caught a glimpse.

NTD Photo
In this image released by NASA, Comet Neowise, left, is seen in the eastern horizon above Earth in this image taken from the International Space Station on July 5, 2020. (NASA via AP)

NASA’s Bob Behnken shared a spectacular photo of the comet on social media late Thursday, showing central Asia in the background and the space station in the foreground.

“Stars, cities, spaceships, and a comet!” he tweeted from orbit.

By Marcia Dunn