Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE is putting on a once-in-a-lifetime display as it crosses outside of Earth's orbit on its way back to the outer parts of the solar system.
The comet passed just inside Mercury's orbit on July 3, where the intense heat from the sun caused gas and dust to erupt and created the large visible tail of debris, according to NASA.
The comet was first discovered by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) on March 27, 2020, and became visible to observers on Earth earlier this week.
Comet NEOWISE will be closest to Earth on July 22, and can be most easily seen in the Northern Hemisphere before dawn in the northeast sky or just after sunset in the northwest, according to NASA.
Although the comet's core may be seen with the naked eye, the tail is more easily seen with binoculars. After it fades from view in August, the comet will not return to Earth's skies for another 6,800 years.