Monsoon clouds may play spoilsport during comet sighting in Mumbai

Updated: Jul 14, 2020, 07:09 IST | Gaurav Sarkar | Mumbai

Star-gazing Mumbaikars most likely to miss out on once-in-7,000 years Neowise spectacle

The comet Neowise seen before sunrise in Bad Woerishofen, southern Germany, on July 12. Pic/AFP
The comet Neowise seen before sunrise in Bad Woerishofen, southern Germany, on July 12. Pic/AFP

A recently discovered comet - that is currently streaking past Earth for the first time in close to 7,000 years, is likely to evade Mumbaikars' vision due to the thick cloud cover playing spoilsport.

Comet Neowise - which will be visible for India starting Tuesday (July 14) - was discovered by NASA's nowise inferred telescope as recently as March 27, 2020, and is known to have an orbital period of 6,800 years, said Arvind Paranjpye, Director of Nehru Planetarium.

"This can be interpreted as the first time (in recorded history) that this comet is visible from Earth. Since there is no written record of humanity that dates back previously to the last time it may have been visible, which is close to 7,000 years ago," he said, speaking with mid-day, adding that the comet's trajectory was closest to the sun a few days ago.

"A comet usually becomes brighter when it is closer to the sun and then starts dimming and fading as it gradually moves away, which is natural since comets reflect sunlight. The comet can be seen from Earth for approximately the next 20 days, starting July 14, and will be the brightest on July 22," he added.

He has advised stargazers and astronomical enthusiasts to keep a pair of binoculars with them so as to help them spot the comet more easily. "Mumbaikars must try and look in the North West direction above the horizon about 1.5 hours after sunset. The comet should be visible at just about 15 degrees above the horizon. You can expect to see a reasonably bright and fuzzy patch of light which will resemble a small star-like object - but with a tail that is against the horizon. This will be visible for only an hour or so after sunset - but if there are thick clouds close to the horizon, which will be mostly because of the ongoing monsoons, then the chances of seeing the comet would be very poor," he said.

"This comet has come after a very long time and is also the brightest comet to pass by Earth in the last two decades. It is very disappointing that we will not be able to see or photograph it due to the prevailing atmospheric conditions as well as the Coronavirus, which has been preventing people from stepping outside their homes. We were looking forward to seeing Neowise but looks like we'll be left disappointed," he stated.

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