The comet Neowise or C/2020 F3 is seen over the Turets, Belarus, 110 kilometers (69 miles) west of … [+] capital Minsk, early Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Comet NEOWISE has been dazzling sky-watchers in the northern hemisphere, but its on the way out.
On Wednesday, July 22 the comet will be at its closest to Earth (at 64 million miles, so no, its not dangerous!), but there are three reasons why you need to get out and see Comet NEOWISE it on your next clear night:
- Its receding from the Sun so dimming slightly.
- The crescent Moon is making an appearance this week, with a bigger and brighter Moon bound to make it slightly harder to see naked-eye as we reach the weekend.
What is Comet NEOWISE?
Earths most spectacular comet since 2007 is now an all-night object, observable low in the northern night sky all night long. Its a long-period comet that enters the inner Solar System only once every 6,800 years or so.
Thats older than Stonehenge, an ancient monument that Comet NEOWISE is making its first appearance above the ancient monument, among many others.
Heres how to see Comet NEOWISE, an icy visitor from the outer reaches of the Solar System thats now saying its last goodbyes.
Comet NEOWISE reflected in Roath Park Lake in Cardiff, Wales. The clock tower is a memorial from … [+] 1913 to Scott and the British Antarctic Expedition of 1910, which left from Cardiff.
When and where to see Comet NEOWISE
From mid-northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere, you need to look to the northeast about an hour after sunset. Its about 10-15 above the horizon. The comet will move towards the northwest the latter at night you look. It never sets, at least for now. Its right under the Big Dipper/the Plough.
How to see Comet NEOWISE
Yes, you can see the comet with your naked eye. However, you need to use averted vision to get the most out of it. Find the comet, look slightly away from it, and your eyes will much better appreciate its brightness. It sounds weird, but it works!
Still, if you want the best possible view, use binoculars. That way, you’ll get an incredible view of the current nucleus and its tail of dust and gas. All of the pictures youre seeing dont compare to seeing it with the naked eye, but you do need patience.
Comet NEOWISE is seen in the night sky. The retrograde comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was discovered on … [+] March 27, 2020, using the NEOWISE infrared space telescope. Alexander Ryumin/TASS (Photo by Alexander Ryumin\TASS via Getty Images)
Why is Comet NEOWISE so bright?
Comet NEOWISE is now shining at a magnitude of around +1.9, though thats a generous estimation in my opinion. Although thats slightly dimmer than it was, its still relatively bright because it has just passed its perihelionits closest point to the Sunand it is just about as close to Earth as its going to get. It could also be undergoing some kind of outburst, which could cease at any moment.
So for various reasons, Comet NEOWISE could vastly reduce in brightness and rapidly retreat from being a naked-eye comet.
So catch the comet while you can!
Comet McNaught in the sky, near Lions Head in Cape Town, South Africa. 01-021-2007. (Photo by: … [+] Majority World/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Universal Images Group via Getty Images
When was the last Great Comet?
There have been two decent naked-eye Great Comets in the past 25 years; Hale-Bopp in 1997 and Comet McNaught in 2007, which was largely seen only in the southern hemisphere.
Yup, thats alltwo naked eye comets in 23 years. Make that three!
Thats why its so important that if youre in the northern hemisphere that you get outside on the next clear night and look to the north.It could be the only chance you get in your entire life to see a comet with your naked eye.
Having seen Comet NEOWISE, your next question is likely to be when is the next naked-eye comet? That one, sadly, is impossible to answer.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes