Infrared View of a Comet and Distant Galaxy

NASA's NEOWISE mission captured this series of pictures of comet C/2012 K1 -- also known as comet Pan-STARRS -- as it swept across our skies on May 20, 2014. The comet is relatively close to us -- it was only about 143 million miles (230 million kilometers) from Earth when this picture was taken. It is seen passing a much more distant spiral galaxy, called NGC 3726, which is about 55 million light-years from Earth, or 2 trillion times farther away than the comet.

The image was made from data collected by the two infrared channels onboard the NEOWISE spacecraft, with the longer-wavelength channel (centered at 4.5 microns) mapped to red and the shorter-wavelength channel (3.4 microns) mapped to cyan.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

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Page Last Updated: July 3rd, 2014
Page Editor: Tony Greicius