HUBBLE SNAPS CLOSE-UP OF COMET NEOWISE [HEIC2015]
21 August 2020
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the closest images yet of the sky's latest visitor to make the headlines, comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, after it passed by the Sun. The new images of the comet were taken on 8 August and feature the visitor's coma, the fine shell that surrounds its nucleus, and its dusty output.
Comet NEOWISE is the brightest comet visible from the Northern Hemisphere since 1997's Hale-Bopp comet. It's estimated to be travelling at over 60 kilometres per second. The comet's closest approach to the Sun was on 3 July and it's now heading back to the outer reaches of the Solar System, not to pass through our neighbourhood again for another 7000 years.
Hubble's observation of NEOWISE is the first time a comet of this brightness has been photographed at such high resolution after its pass by the Sun. Earlier attempts to photograph other bright comets (such as comet ATLAS) proved unsuccessful as they disintegrated in the searing heat.