The sky of the northern hemisphere offers this summer the beautiful spectacle of a comet, baptized ‘Neowise’, whose exceptionally bright plume is visible to the naked eye. The phenomenon had not occurred for more than 20 years.
Discovered in late March by Nasa’s Neowise satellite, the comet became visible to the naked eye on July 3, during its passage to perihelion, that is to say, closest to the Sun, explained on Monday to ‘AFP Lucie Maquet, astronomer of the Paris Observatory-PSL.
At this distance from the Sun – 0.3 astronomical units, or roughly 50 million kilometers – the ice contained in the comet has sublimated into gas, creating this long trail of dust reflecting the light of the Sun.
Hale-Bopp and 1997
‘It is quite rare to see comets so well. The last big comet we could see with the naked eye so easily was Hale-Bopp in 1997 ‘, said the astronomer.
Neowise is visible everywhere from the northern hemisphere, even in cities, provided the sky is clear. You should aim for the northeast direction, between the constellations of the Coachman and the Big Dipper – opposite the handle of the ‘casserole’.
The object, a nucleus formed of ice, rocks and organic materials, comes from the confines of the solar system: either from the Kuiper belt, or even further, the Oort cloud, which are both reservoirs small celestial bodies.
Comets like Neowise make large ellipses, with the Sun as their focus, and take between 4,000 and 6,000 years to make a complete revolution, detailed Lucie Maquet.
The phenomenon will be visible until the end of July, gradually losing its luminosity as the object moves away from the Sun to return to where it came from.