Each time, large, icy objects pass through the inner solar system.
When close to the sun, the ice sublimates and emits volatile gases.
Both dust and ions are blown off, creating spectacular cometary tails.
From Earth, these comets usually appear to be the brightest in the nearest approach.
Bright comets with naked eyes are rare, with Hale-Bopp from 1997 as our latest “big comet.”
Since then, only the 2007 Comet McNaught was comparable, mainly with observers in the southern hemisphere.
But in July 2020, Comet NEOWISE will put on the world’s largest monetary show in 13 years.
With a circulation period of 6,800 years, it last looked up before the wheel was invented.
On July 3, 2020, it reached the perihelion and survived a dangerous encounter with the sun.
Since then, it is our sky before dawn, but relative movement changes everything.
On 12/13 July 2020, Comet NEOWISE will finally be visible after sunset.
Although lighter than all but about 20 stars, its expansive, diffuse nature makes it a challenge for people’s eyes.
It is easiest to find with binoculars first, under the Big Dipper in the northwest sky.
It will peak on July 23: reaches its closest approach to Earth.
For many skywatchers it is already humanity’s best comet since 1997.
Mostly Mute Monday tells an astronomical story in pictures, pictures and a maximum of 200 words. Talk less; Smile.