NASA’s NEOWISE has been discovering lot of celestial objects lately. The mission has discovered nine comets and 99 asteroids till date and now there is a news of another one. NEOWISE has spotted a celestial object moving towards the earth’s orbit and its characteristics hint it to be a comet.
Known as C/2016 U1 NEOWISE, the celestial object was discovered on October 21, 2016. The mission was reactivated from hibernation then. NEOWISE scans the space for Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) that might pose threat to our planet. The above-mentioned number of discoveries have been done by the mission since its extension in 2014.
Just like the comet 67P, observed by the Rosetta probe of the European Space Agency, comets release clouds of dust and gasses as it comes near to the sun. Going by these characteristics, the C/2016 U1 NEOWISE is being seen as a comet. It would be visible from earth, but it would be an extremely rare incident.
The passing of this comet from close to the earth is so rare because this won’t happen again for next thousands of years. The C/2016 U1 NEOWISE orbits the sun on an unidentified hyperbolic orbit and it is possibly millions of years long. It is also possible that the comet is passing through the inner solar system for the first time and that too being so close to the earth. Other short period comets, like Halley’s, pass by our planet every 75 to 80 years.
NASA says that the comet can be seen from the earth using a good pair of binoculars. Some uncertainties are also attached to it as the brightness of the comet is unpredictable. From the northern hemisphere, the comet will be in the south-eastern sky before the dawn. It is visible from the earth until January 14, and its brightness is expected to increase in the second week of the year. After that, it will move out to the outer solar system following its orbit.
Source: The Indian Express