A Weirdo Comet – C/2014 C3

Comet C/2014 C3 a weirdo comet is the first found by NEOWISE. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Comet C/2014 C3 a weirdo comet is the first found by NEOWISE. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) now has a comet discovery.

Officially named “C/2014 C3 (NEOWISE)”, the first comet discovery of the renewed mission came on Feb. 14 when the comet was about 143 million miles (230 million kilometers) from Earth.

The odd thing about this comet is that is in a retrograde orbit. Amy Mainzer, the mission’s principal investigator from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “This comet is a weirdo – it is in a retrograde orbit, meaning that it orbits the sun in the opposite sense from Earth and the other planets.”

Check out the story here at the WISE website.

3 thoughts on “A Weirdo Comet – C/2014 C3

  1. There are many comets on retrograde orbits, Comet 1P/Halley is a famous example. The orbit inclination (tilt with respect to the orbit of Earth) of Oort cloud comets become randomized by galactic tides and stellar encounters. Therefore, about half of the new comets (objects on parabolic orbits arriving directly from the Oort cloud) have retrograde orbits. They maintain these as they are transformed to long period comets and, in some cases, Halley Type Comets, over time.

    For comets in a nutshell, see
    http://thehistoryofthesolarsystem.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/what-is-a-comet/

    Cheers,

    /Björn

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