Comet Sighted!

comet sighted in night sky with naked eye
Photo by Physics & Astronomy Associate Professor Donna M. Pierce

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) as seen from MSU's Thad Cochran Research Park at 4:49 a.m. Central Daylight Time on July 11, 2020.

At the time, the comet was 0.38 AU (35.3 million miles) from the sun and 0.88 AU (81.8 million miles) from the earth.

Comet NEOWISE was discovered on March 27, 2020 and reached naked-eye visibility in early July.

Comets are small solar system bodies that release gas and dust when they are heated by solar radiation as the pass close to the sun. Astronomers are interested in learning more about comets because their chemical composition and physical construction may provide insights into solar system formation.