From Comet NEOWISE to Comet Interceptor


Discovered in March 2020, Comet NEOWISE became visible to the naked eye in July, gifting observers in the northern hemisphere with one of the most scenic comets in over 20 years. The comet, which is on an almost parabolic orbit and had its closest approach to the Sun, or perihelion, in early July, reaches its closest point to Earth on 22–23 July, before zipping back towards the outer Solar System.

In this video, ESA Research Fellows Rachana Bhatawdekar and Sandor Kruk share their experience and explain how to observe and image the comet in the sky. Next, ESA Research Fellow Charlotte Götz tells us more about comets and their tails, and how ESA’s future Comet Interceptor mission, to be launched in 2028, is going to wait for such a ‘great’ comet that has not been discovered yet. The spacecraft will sit in a parking orbit around the Lagrange point L2, 1.5 million kilometres away from Earth, until an interesting ‘pristine’ comet visits the inner Solar System. It will then intersect the comet’s orbit to study its nucleus, gases, dust, and plasma environment.

Jump to the different segments of the video:
00:00 – 1:22 – How to see comet NEOWISE
1:23 – 2:42 – How to take a picture of comet NEOWISE
2:43 – 6:17 – Comets and Comet Interceptor

More about Comet Interceptor

Image credits: Rachana Bhatawdekar, Sandor Kruk, Mark McCaughrean, Kai Noeske (2020)
Thumbnail image: Courtesy Mark McCaughrean, 12 July 2020 (Wassenaar, The Netherlands)

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  1. Perfect Hint ! I try to look for it. I remember an incredibly experience back then. At this Time I wasn´t into Astronomy like nowadays. I walked Home from a long Yoga Lesson at a cold Night, looking at the superclear Sky, and there it was…. HALE BOPP ! It has been so extremely huge and bright. I cannot describe that overwhelming Feeling that hits me at that Moment. It has been so majestic and glaring, no Words for that… I rember I thought someting like: " You are BOSS ! I do not expect to see You again, so nice Journey, cold Friend" =) I´ll never forget this Moment. Greetings to all Space-Nerds from Z SPACE Science LAB

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