An astrophotographer was able to capture a stunning photo of the visible comet NEOWISE flying over polar lights in the sky. The image was taken after Earth was hit by a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun.
On July 21, it was reported that Earth would get hit by the Sun’s CME, which is a cloud of plasma and magnetic field. The solar emission was detected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency predicted that the CME would interact with Earth’s atmosphere and cause the appearance of auroras or polar lights over certain areas of Earth.
After hearing about the space weather forecast, astrophotographer Isaac Polanski of Michigan traveled to the Wilderness State Park to catch the appearance of polar lights. Aside from the stunning light display, Polanski also spotted comet NEOWISE in the sky. The visible comet appeared right after it reached its closest distance to Earth.
As seen in the photo captured by Polanski, which he shared through SpaceWeather.com’s gallery, comet NEOWISE appeared over the greenish polar lights.
“[I] was watching the potential for auroras with a sneaky CME for a few days,” Polanski stated in the details of his photo. “High clouds from severe storms in Canada held off, and everything looked good for a show.”
“A substorm hit between 12 a.m. – 12:30 a.m. and the auroras exploded,” he continued. “They were vibrant to the naked eye! Comet NEOWISE was still visible to the naked eye too, and the mix of the comet and auroras was beautiful. One of my best astrophotography nights!”
Comet NEOWISE made its near-Earth approach on Thursday as it flew past the planet at a distance of 64 million miles away. Currently, the comet is currently moving away from Earth. Once it exits the Solar System, it won’t be back for another 6,800 years.
Although the comet is still visible from Earth, its brightness has significantly decreased in the last couple of days. According to Space.com, the comet’s visibility will continue to decrease as it moves away from the planet. By mid-August, the comet will only be visible for telescopes and powerful binoculars.