It's already well known that when it comes to getting a view of planet Earth, the International Space Station (ISS) has the best seat in the house. It's also a great place to check out stuff happening outside our planet.
Case in point? This incredible time lapse video of Comet NEOWISE appearing over the horizon on July 5. But before we get to the video, let's talk about the comet itself.
It won't be back for how long?
Comet NEOWISE, or C/2020 F3, is a very new discovery. It was found on March 27, 2020 by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer telescope (WISE) during a mission called NEOWISE. Which explains the name! (A NEO is a Near Earth Object, or something passing close by Earth, which WISE is being used to discover.)
As for why we didn't know about it before, well, there's an explanation for that one, too. You see, though this is one very old comet, it is rarely near these parts. Its huge orbit takes it out to the farthest reaches of our solar system, meaning that the next time it will be around these parts is about 6,768 years from now.
Catch it while you can!
All of which means that if you want to see Comet NEOWISE, there is literally no time like the present! Provided the night sky is dark and clear enough, the comet is visible now to the naked eye. And it will stay that way until early August. So get out there and check out this comet!
Of course, if you're not sure that you can stay up that late—or you're just feeling impatient—we have a video for you. It was made by Sean Dorán using footage taken onboard the ISS. It takes a while to set the scene—you'll start to see the faintest wisp of the comet's tail around 3:15 in the left half of Earth's horizon. And believe us when we say that it is worth the wait.
So turn off the lights, turn up the sound, and take in the beauty of a comet that is more than once in a lifetime. It's once in many hundreds of lifetimes.