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The Neowise comet takes about 6,800 years to complete its path around the sun 

By Ally Mauch
July 15, 2020 11:52 AM
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A three-mile wide comet is passing the Earth, lighting up the evening and early morning skies.

Stunning new footage shows the comet, named Neowise, zipping past the Earth in this truly once-in-a-lifetime event — the comet takes roughly 6,800 years to complete its journey around the sun.

Artist and scientist Seán Doran compiled hundreds of images from the NASA database to create his video of the comet, which he told CBS News showcases "how beautiful the Earth appears when viewed from space."

Astronaut Bob Behnken also showed off the view of Neowise from space, sharing a photo from the International Space Station that displays “Stars, cities, spaceships, and a comet!”

"That comet became visible during that short period of time when it was still close to the sun, but the sun was still hidden by the Earth," Behnken told The New York Times' podcast The Daily last week. "It was just an awesome sight to be able to see and something that we try to capture in the few moments that we do have to look out the window."

Neowise, discovered by astronomers in March, made its closest approach to the sun on July 3, leaving scientists worried about its ability to survive the heat.

"This very close passage by the Sun is cooking the comet's outermost layers, causing gas and dust to erupt off the icy surface and creating a large tail of debris," NASA said in a July 8 article. "And yet the comet has managed to survive this intense roasting."

After that, for several days, the comet was visible about an hour before sunrise from the Northern Hemisphere. After July 14, however, the comet is most easily spotted in the evening, according to a release from Sky & Telescope.

Though it may be difficult to see with the naked eye, the best bet is to find a place that is free of light pollution, meaning streetlights, cars, apartment buildings and other sources of artificial light.

“Start looking about 1 hour after sunset, when you’ll find it just over the northwestern horizon as the last of twilight fades into darkness,” Sky & Telescope recommended. “Look about three fists below the bottom of the Big Dipper, which is hanging down by its handle high above, and from there perhaps a little to right.”