Seminole State’s Emil Buehler Planetarium sets sights on rare comet

Wednesday, July 15, 2020
Written by: Emily Hollingshead

Photo: The NEOWISE comet in the early morning sky over Kennedy Space Center. Photo by Planetarium Manager Derek Demeter.

The Seminole State College of Florida Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium is planning to offer a free virtual public show on Thursday, July 16, at 7 p.m. to discuss Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). The comet will be visible in the northwestern horizon just after sunset and will appear higher and higher each night.

The NEOWISE comet is the brightest comet that has appeared in the sky since the Hale-Bopp comet in 1997. “NEOWISE travelled as close as 25 million miles from the sun, and as comets get closer to the sun, they get brighter,” said Planetarium Manager Derek Demeter. Most comets burn and break up as they approach perihelion, the point in its orbit where it is closest to the sun, making the opportunity to see the comet a rare one. As the comet moves closer to the sun, more dust and gas from the comet’s core are heated, creating a larger and more impressive comet tail.

“The comet is made of ices, mostly water and other organics,” said Demeter. “It formed in an area known as the Oort Cloud, which is home to small chunks of ice in the outer solar system that are over trillions of miles away. Right now, the comet took over 4,000 years to arrive at this point and will not be seen for another 6,000 years!”

To participate in the virtual show, tune in on the planetarium’s Facebook Live from your device on July 16 at 7 p.m.

About the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium

Located on Seminole State’s Sanford/Lake Mary Campus, the Emil Buehler Perpetual Trust Planetarium at Seminole State College of Florida offers live, interactive shows and full-dome video presentations. For more information on the Buehler Planetarium and upcoming events, visit the planetarium website, like the planetarium on Facebook and follow it on Twitter and Instagram: @seminoleplanet.