Comet NEOWISE, on its way to the deep freeze beyond the planets, makes its closest approach to Earth this week, appearing as a large shooting star in the early evening sky near the constellation of the Big Dipper. Officially known as Comet C/2020 F3, it is the brightest to be seen in the Northern Hemisphere in 25 years. Amateur and professional skywatchers alike call it NEOWISE after NASA’s space telescope—the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer—that first spotted it. Since 2009 it has been searching for asteroids and other celestial objects crossing Earth’s orbit.

The…

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