Now is a great time to catch a comet in your night sky. It’s called Comet NEOWISE and if you miss it now you won’t be able to see it again for some 6,800 years. Observers in the Northern Hemisphere are hoping to catch a glimpse of this object before it zips away at the end of July.
NEOWISE was first discovered on March 27, 2020 by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission. For those wanting to catch a glimpse of this comet, there are several upcoming opportunities in the coming days. It will become increasingly visible shortly after sunset in the northwest sky.
If you’re trying to find it without binoculars or any other type of observation tool, you can find it by locating a fuzzy star with a bit of a tail.
Here’s what to do to find this comet:
– Find a spot away from city lights and with an unobstructed view of the sky.
– Just after sunset, look below the Big Dipper in the northwest sky.
– If you have binoculars or a small telescope, this will help.
Each night, the comet will continue to rise increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon as illustrated below.
Comet NEOWISE will be closest to Earth on July 22-23, 2020 and will pass at some 64 million miles from Earth. The good news is that, as of tonight – July 16th, we’ll be having a waning crescent moon, so the moon won’t be too bright to wash it out.
If you miss it at night you can still view it early in the morning before sunrise. Try going outside about an hour before sunrise and keep looking as the minutes tick by. You’ll be able to see the comet rise high enough into the dawn sky for you to spot it.
Here’s a graphic on how you can see it this coming morning.
Below are some images that people have taken from all around the world.
Gianluca Masi of the Virtual Telescope Project captured Comet NEOWISE on July 7, 2020, along with the International Space Station (dashed line), in this dawn view of Rome, Italy. “What a sight!” he wrote.
captured by Marsha Kirschbaum in San Leandro, California, on the morning of July 5, 2020. She wrote: “It was a really early a.m. wakeup call for me. This icy celestial visitor survived its pass by the sun to put on a splendid show at 4:45 a.m. this morning. After a night and early morning of the dull background roar of fireworks punctuated by really loud ‘bombs’ with the smell of smoke, I was really doubtful I would see the comet because of the haze. And there was a lot of it as can be seen on the horizon in this image. I couldn’t quite see it with the unaided eye, but my 200 mm lens saw it just fine. My kind of celestial fireworks.”