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GS-III :
  • 18 July, 2020

  • 4 Min Read

NEOWISE after the NASA telescope

NEOWISE after the NASA telescope

GS-Paper-3 S&T (PT)

The recently discovered comet C/2020 F3 will make its closest approach to the Earth at a distance of 64 million miles or 103 million kilometres while crossing Earth’s outside orbit on 22nd July 2020.

It is also known as NEOWISE after the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) telescope that discovered it. On 3rd July, it was closest to the sun at 43 million km due to which its outer layer was released, creating an atmosphere (referred to as coma) of gas and dust from its icy surface. It will be visible through binoculars or a small telescope.

What is Coma?

On July 3, the comet was closest to the sun at 43 million km. On this day, the comet cruised inside Mercury’s orbit and, due to its proximity to the sun, its outer layer was released creating an atmosphere – referred to as coma – of gas and dust from its icy surface.

  1. This atmosphere sometimes leads to formation of a bright tail of debris that can extend for thousands or millions of kilometres.

What Are The Differences Between An Asteroid, Comet, Meteoroid, Meteor and Meteorite?

  • Asteroid: A relatively small, inactive, rocky body orbiting the Sun and is available between Mars and Jupiter.
  • Comet: A relatively small, at times active, object whose ices can vaporize in sunlight forming an atmosphere (coma) of dust and gas and, sometimes, a tail of dust and/or gas.
  • Meteoroid: A small particle from a comet or asteroid orbiting the Sun.
  • Meteor: The light phenomena which results when a meteoroid enters the Earth’s atmosphere and vaporizes; a shooting star.
  • Meteorite: A meteoroid that survives its passage through the Earth’s atmosphere and lands upon the Earth’s surface.

NASA’s NEOWISE:

Launched in December 2009 as the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, the space telescope was originally designed to survey the sky in infrared, detecting asteroids, stars and some of the faintest galaxies in space.

It did so successfully until completing its primary mission in February 2011. In December 2013, it was re-purposed for the NEOWISE project as an instrument to study near-Earth objects, or NEOs, as well as more distant asteroids and comets.

Significance of the Study

  • Astronomers believe that comets hold important clues about the formation of the solar system and it is possible that comets brought water and other organic compounds to Earth.
  • NASA tracks all Near Earth Objects (NEOs) that includes comets and asteroids using telescopes placed all around the Earth, as part of its NEO Observation Program.
  • Objective of the Program: To find, track and characterise NEOs that are 140 meters or larger in size since they can pose a risk to the Earth because of the devastation a potential impact can cause.

Source: TH


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