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The Parker Solar Probe Examined Three Tails Of Comet NEOWISE

The Parker Solar Probe Examined Three Tails Of Comet NEOWISE

The Parker Solar Probe examined the three tails of comet NEOWISE, which became the brightest comet in the sky over the past seven years. The data obtained by the probe helped identify two components in the ion tail, and will also allow further determination of the size and velocity of particles in the dust tail, according to the NASA website.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was discovered on March 27, 2020, by the WISE space infrared telescope (Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer). Comet NEOWISE moves in an almost parabolic orbit and passed its perihelion on July 3, 2020, ending up at a minimum distance of 0.29 astronomical units from the Sun. The comet will approach Earth on July 23, 2020, passing at a distance of 103.5 million kilometers. The next time C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) returns to the Sun in a few thousand years, the aphelion of its orbit is at a distance of 500-700 astronomical units from the Sun.

There were fears that the comet could be expected to meet the fate of bright comets C/2019 Y4 (ATLAS) and C/2020 F8 (SWAN), as well as the famous interstellar comet Borisov — their cores broke up, unable to withstand the approach of the Sun. However, comet NEOWISE has survived perihelion and currently remains bright enough to be visible to the naked eye and using a camera, binoculars or telescope will clearly distinguish the comet's core and tail. Between July and mid-September, C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) will move through the constellations of Taurus, Charioteer, Lynx, URSA Major, and Veronica Hair.

In addition to earth observers, the comet was monitored by several spacecraft, such as SOHO and SDO, and was observed by astronauts on the International space station. On July 5, 2020, comet NEOWISE came into the field of view of the WISPR instrument installed on Board the Parker Solar Probe, leading the observation of the Sun. The images obtained by the probe clearly show the comet's two tails. The wider and whitish tail consists of dust particles and stretches along the comet's orbit, the narrower and bluish tail consists of ions formed from atoms and gas molecules in the coma under the influence of ultraviolet radiation from the Sun.

The ion tail is directed away from the Sun, it can distinguish two separate components, so we can assume that the comet has three tails. Scientists hope that further analysis of the data obtained by the probe will determine the size of the particles that make up the dust tail, as well as the speed with which they left the comet's core.