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A Comet’s Tale


While most events last summer were canceled, Mother Nature put on her own spectacle. Comet NEOWISE passed by a safe 64 million miles from Earth, making it visible with the naked eye for weeks. This photo of the comet above Kodachrome Basin State Park was taken by Paul Ricketts BS’12, director of the U’s South Physics Observatory. “Catching NEOWISE in the dark sky with its tail so bright and prominent was definitely a sight to see! It seemed to stretch across the whole night sky,” he says.

The ball of ice and rocks came from the outer reaches of our solar system in a frigid field of icy bodies called the Oort Cloud. As the comet neared our sun, it expelled gas and dust, creating the glorious double tail extending 10 million miles. If you missed it this time, mark your calendars: NEOWISE will be back around in about 6,800 years.

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