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INDIA TO WITNESS A RARE COMET, NEOWISE

The world is at the end of the rope and novel coronavirus put us behind bars. It is needless to say that Amphan in West Bengal and Assam flood made the situation more vulnerable. Wherever we look, all seems to be the procession of death. Despite the epidemic, only exciting news for the skywatchers is locating of a comet which is identified and named ‘C/2020F3 NEOWISE’ by NASA. July 14 onwards, the comet will be visible in the sky about 20 minutes which can be seen even with naked eyes. It can be found near the horizon in the dawn.

Odisha planetarium’s Deputy Director, Dr. Subhendu Pattanaik also added “In the evening to follow, the comet NEOWISE will rapidly climb higher in the sky and will be visible for a long period. The NEOWISE will be seen in the Northwest which is 20 degrees from the skyline.

What is a comet?

Comet is a cosmic snowball which consists of frozen gases, rock and dust particles. It goes around the Sun in a highly elliptical path. When it comes closer to the Sun it melts thereby releasing gases into natural fireworks. The size of a comet can be similar to a small town estimating up to a few hundred kilometers. The dust particle and gases form a tail-like shape that stretches away from the Sun for miles in the opposite direction. Currently, it has two tails, one is made of dust and the other one is consists of gases. There are billions over comets orbiting the Sun and 3650 is known comet amongst all.

The exceptional comet will be visible clearly from India for the next 20 days from July 14th. It is expected to fade away in the mysterious depth of the galaxy at the end of the month and would hence require telescope or binoculars to be spotted.

Hale-Bopp was the last comet that India observed widely in 1996-97 and it was one of the brightest seen for many decades.

According to the USA’s space exploration agency of NASA, the next NEOWISE is expected to emerge to the earth is after another 6,800 years.

Now the most interesting part is humans all over the world will be scrutinized at its fear, superstition, and suspicion. Some believed that the comets were demons or gods to destroy the earth but in the age of science, modern people do not think so.

Halley’s comet, one of the famous comets has a long story in ancient cultures. It was viewed as a bad omen majorly.

” Comet has a long history, usually as omens and bearers of bad news,” said Woody Sullivan, a professor of astronomy.

On the other hand, the death of Julius Ceaser was taken by a comet and Roman believes it as a sign of his divinity.

Putting aside the primitive beliefs, the sudden appearance of a comet even after so many years is an exciting moment for space lovers. Even amid pandemic, nature seemed to present us with such an aesthetic aura.

Saswati Chattopadhyay

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