By Marcelo Zurita*
From the first days of the month of July, stunning images of Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) began to appear on the internet. For now, all of these images come from countries in the northern hemisphere, where the comet is visible, but in a few days we will be able to see it here too.
Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) photographed from Mexico. Credits: Da Ko
Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) was discovered on March 27, 2020 in the infrared images of NASA’s Neowise space telescope (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer). Between June 22 and 27, an increase in brightness was noticed when it passed through the field of view of the Soho space observation telescope. As it was towards the Sun, it could not be observed here from Earth, but it left the astronomers attentive, expecting its appearance at the beginning of this month.
Passage of Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) through the Soho field of view. Credits: Nasa / Soho
And he did not disappoint. When it appeared again, in the late morning hours in the northern hemisphere, the comet was splendid. Visible to the naked eye and majestically photographed in various parts of the planet, even from the International Space Station. Check out some images below.
Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) photographed from Arizona, USA. Credits: Tom Polakis
Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) photographed from California, USA. Source: Wikipedia
Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) photographed from Lebanon. Credits: Maroun Habib
Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) photographed from the International Space Station. Credits: Ivan Vagner / Roscosmos
Around here, we still need to wait a few days. He will begin to be seen in the early evening, in a northwest direction from 20 July. However, initially for the northernmost states of the country, such as Roraima and Amap. After the 20th, it appears higher on the horizon and can be seen in locations further south. From the 24th, for example, it can be seen by residents of the state of So Paulo, and on the 26th, it will be visible to all of Brazil.
Position of Comet C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) in the sky of So Paulo on July 25th. Image: stellarium.org
How to observe and photograph
The tendency is now that the comet’s brightness begins to diminish as it moves away from the Sun. Therefore, it will be easier to observe it in the first days. To find it, look for it near the horizon in the northwest direction, as soon as it starts to get dark. Obviously, you need a free horizon in that direction. The Comet will only be visible at the beginning of the night. It must be an hour after the sun, and it will be very difficult to see it when it is closer to the horizon, so, try not to waste time to observe and photograph it.
If you have a camera, support it on a trip, point in the direction of the comet, shoot using the timer to avoid undesirable tremors. It is important to set it to night mode (moderate ISO, large aperture and high exposure). If possible, train a few nocturnal clicks in advance, it will make all the difference, since you will not have much time to register the comet.
And to end the show, between the 6th, 7th and 8th of August, he will be present at a true meeting of comets in the sky. In those days, the C / 2020 F3 (Neowise) will appear very close to comets C / 2017 T2 (Panstarrs) and C / 2019 U6 (Lemmon). All separated by less than 10 in the sky. So close that they can be hidden by a closed hand. But, probably only Comet Neowise can be seen. The other two, as they are already very far from Earth, will appear much more faintly in the sky and will probably only be seen by instruments such as telescopes or appropriate cameras.
Conjunction between comets C / 2020 F3 (Neowise), C / 2017 T2 (Panstarrs) and C / 2019 U6 (Lemmon) on August 7. Image: stellarium.org
But, without a doubt, this will be an excellent opportunity to contemplate one of the most beautiful astronomical events: the observation of a comet with the naked eye. So, reserve space in the agenda, plan ahead and prepare your cameras to record this fabulous and unmissable moment.
*Marcelo Zurita president of the Associação Paraibana de Astronomia – APA; member of SAB – Sociedade Astronmica Brasileira; technical director of Bramon – Brazilian Meteor Observation Network – and regional coordinator (Northeast) of Asteroid Day Brasil