A hauntingly beautiful time-lapse video shows Comet NEOWISE from Earth’s orbit

In the dark of the orbital night of July 5, a NASA astronaut floated to a window on the International Space Station, looked down at the extremity of Earth and patiently waited for a cosmic spectacle.

As the space station circled the Middle East, the newly discovered comet NEOWISE and its twin glowing tails rose above the horizon before sunrise. Then, almost as fast as the space rock spitting dust and gas appeared, it faded into the blinding glare of the sun.

“Just before the Sun came out, that comet became visible during that short period of time when it was still close to the Sun, but the Sun was still hidden by Earth,” said NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, who recently launched to the ISS. aboard SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon spacecraft he said The New York Times’ The daily podcast from orbit on July 7.

“It was just an amazing sight to be able to see.”

Fortunately for all of us, we don’t have to risk our lives into space to see such a scene, or even imagine it: Behnken and his colleagues recorded hundreds of photographs, which UK-based graphic artist Seán Doran (who regularly processes images from the space agency) downloaded from a NASA image archive and then edited into an impressive time-lapse movie (above).

“Have a cold drink, turn off the lights, undress, get comfortable and put this on the big TV,” Doran tweeted Thursday with a short video, adding: “Drink while you drink.”

Although Doran initially shared a version of the accelerated video four times, he then uploaded an ultra-high-definition 4K video to his YouTube channel showing the sequence in real time.

The sequence consists of 550 long-exposure photos taken over seven minutes, Doran told Business Insider in an email. Typically, that would provide just 18 seconds of video, so it interpolated the images to complete the frames, smooth out the sequence, and create a seamless playback experience.

This result gives movie viewers an insight into what it is like to be on board the space station as it flies 250 miles (400 km) above Earth at a speed of 17,500 mph (2,800 km / h) and sees a kite on the rise.

Watch now: Comet NEOWISE will not return for millennia

Scientists operating a NASA telescope called the Wide Field Infrared Reconnaissance Explorer, or WISE, discovered the comet on March 27. Formally known as C / 2020 F3, the comet is named Comet NEOWISE after the telescope’s new mission to find potentially dangerous near-Earth objects. or NEOs.

On July 3, Comet NEOWISE approached the Sun about 10 million miles closer to Mercury’s orbit. Along the way, the 3-mile (5-kilometer) ball of ice warmed up enough to spray two tails, one made of gas and the other of dust, stretching millions of miles into space.

The comet is expected to get closer to Earth on July 23, when it is about 64 million miles away, according to NASA JPL calculations. Astronomers expect it to be visible to the naked eye on a dark night until early August.

But Comet NEOWISE does not stay, nor will it make a return in our lives: the object is approaching the outer fringes of our Solar System, and will not return to the inner Solar System for about 6,768 years.

To see the comet for yourself, wake up before sunrise and look up at the sky near the horizon. However, from Tuesday through Sunday, Space.com reports, the comet will have its best “primetime” schedule at night, approximately 80 minutes after sunset.

On Monday, several amateur astronomers reported that the comet was possibly breaking or breaking, which is not unusual for a rock that is held together by frozen gases, dust and sand.

However, researchers contacted by Business Insider debunked that idea, saying that errors in the telescope mount or photography led to what appears (but is not) a fragmented comet.

“I’ve seen a photo taken a few hours ago … and the comet looks healthy,” Quanzhi Ye, an astronomer at the University of Maryland, told Business Insider in an email Monday. “So no, there is no clear evidence that the comet is breaking up that I know of.”

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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