NASA activated the Neowise spacecraft, which discovered a previously unknown comet, since its reboot last year. But it turns out that this “dirty snow” ... slightly different.
“This comet is a strange person,” says lead researcher Amy Mainser, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “It moves in a retrograde orbit, which means that it rotates around the Sun in the opposite direction from Earth and other planets.”
C / 2014C3 (Neowise) was noticed by the mission on February 14, when it was at a distance of about 143 million km from Earth. To make it clearer, it is almost five times larger than the distance from Earth to Mars when they are at their closest points. Neowise observed the comet six times in half a day, before the object left the field of view of the mission. This discovery was confirmed during observations by the Spacewatch Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, three days later. Although this is the first comet to be discovered during the new mission, the Neowise spacecraft discovered 21 other comets during its main mission between 2009 and 2011, until its cryogenic hydrogen was depleted.
Neowise is an important tool in the search for new asteroids and comets, as well as other objects that may come close to Earth.