Adriana Reyes Newell wanted to take a picture of the beautiful sunset on Tuesday, when she saw a bright light in the sky.
“At first I felt it was an airplane that was ruining my photo,” said the Los Almos National Laboratory physicist, who also works as a professional photographer. “But then it started to break up into a lot of pieces.”
No, it was not the NEOWISE comet, which so many people have reported seeing since March. It was a meteor, flying through the sky as a shooting star before it shattered.
Reyes Newell photographed a meteor flying over Santa Fe shortly before 9 pm on Tuesday night. She said that she was looking near Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center when she saw it.
He already saw the NEOWISE comet and took pictures of it as well. “You can still spot the comet. If you’re lucky,” she said.
“It’s moving away from the Earth and the Solar System, so if you can see it, it’s very faint,” added Reyes Nevel. “But time is [to see it]. “
Vladimir Lyra, professor of astronomy at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, says the rare comet has about two more weeks to see it. He suggested that people keep looking at the sky in the direction of the Big Dipper.
The comet – at approximately three miles in diameter and at a speed of about 200,000 mph – was first spotted by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer or NEOWISE in late March.
“It is already fading,” he said, noting that it is orbiting the Sun and will soon disappear beyond it.
Lyra said the comet is made up of rock, ice and other frozen particles and gases. What the human eye sees is the comet’s tail as it faces the sun.
His fascination with comets comes from a desire to understand more about the creation of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago.
“The comet told me something about the origin of the Earth about how planets are formed” Lyra said. “Comets are like leftover bricks that were used to make planets. If I want to understand that building, I have to understand the bricks. “
For the average person, he said, “Comets are just beautiful … the storehouse of the world that we sometimes come across.
“They break the stillness of the night sky.”
They do meteors that illuminate New Mexico’s skies and should not be mistaken for comets, Lyra said.
Any number of meteor bodies that fill the sky this summer can produce “shooting stars”, which swirl across the dark horizon and almost disappear on cue in about a year.
But the NEOWISE comet only comes around every 4,000 years. If you miss it, you won’t be around it the next time it passes.
“Anyone who’s alive now is going to see it back,” Lyra said.