Hyderabad: Comet Neowise or C/2020 F3 has become the object of interest for the 1000-strong community of stargazers and astronomy enthusiasts in Hyderabad. Since July 14, this group of stargazers, along with other astronomy enthusiasts across the country, have been trying to get a glimpse of what is being billed as a 'naked eye' comet, which means it can be spotted without the aid of any optical instruments.
Neowise is a comet discovered on March 27 by NASA's, Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, an orbiting telescope. Astronomers have calculated that the next time the comet makes its visit to the solar system will be 6,800 years later.
The discovery of the comet has come as an opportunity for astronomers and astronomy enthusiasts to break out of lockdown blues conditions and look forward to something interesting.
Praveen Suryavanshi, a young astronomer and educator, said he and his peers attempted to get a glimpse of Neowise in the evening sky last week, but could not find it due to the low latitude position of the city. "Hyderabad is at 18 degrees latitude, which means that Neowise is closer to the horizon and not high up in the sky. This, combined with scattered clouds and the concrete jungle limiting the horizon visibility makes finding it harder from within the city," he said. The best way to get a good view is to drive down to a remote location, preferably at a higher altitude, he further added.
Explaining how one can spot the Neowise comet, Dr. BG Sidharth, director, BM Birla Science Centre, Hyderabad said, "The comet can most likely be seen next week around July 22 and 23 after sunset for a brief window of about 20 minutes. The most suitable time is from 7 pm to 7:30 pm. One must face the northwestern sky to catch the comet."
With the naked eye, the comet, under clear skies and without light pollution from a location where the view of the horizon is unobstructed, is expected to appear as a fuzzy star-like object below the 'pan' formed by four stars of the easily identifiable 'Big Dipper' or Ursa Major, constellation. A pair of binoculars can present a clearer view and the comet's tail too can be seen if the sky is clear.
Though the local astronomical community had planned to hold several programs at the Birla Planetarium or the Osmania University's Astronomy Department for viewing the comet, they have been canceled in view of the current Coronavirus spread.