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The curtain is about to come down on Comet NEOWISE

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This sky map shows the path that Comet NEOWISE will take across the evening sky in late July and early August.  (Image credit: SkySafari app)

Comet NEOWISE (aka C/2020 F3) was discovered on March 27 by astronomers during the NEOWISE mission, which used NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope to look for near-Earth objects, like asteroids and comets. The comet made its closest approach to the sun (called perihelion) on July 3. At the time, it swept to within 29.4 million miles (44.1 million kilometers) of the sun, or inside the orbit of Mercury, the innermost planet. 

Shortly thereafter, the comet blossomed. It did not attain the status of a "great" comet (exceptionally brilliant comets with bright, long tails), but it still put on a formidable show which more than satisfied those who saw it. Although it has been moving away from the sun ever since, it was steadily approaching the Earth. On Wednesday evening, July 22, NEOWISE passed as close to the Earth as it will come (called perigee), 64.3 million miles (103.5 million km) away.


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