Jul 14, 2020 - Science

Spot a bright comet in night skies now

Comet NEOWISE as seen from the International Space Station
Comet NEOWISE seen from the International Space Station. Photo: NASA

A bright comet is gracing skies around the world this month, and from dark areas in the Northern Hemisphere, it's visible with the naked eye.

The big picture: This comet — named NEOWISE after the spacecraft that discovered it — likely won't be quite as spectacular as Comet Hale-Bopp was in 1997, but it will still make for good viewing for those who can see it.

How to spot it: Comet NEOWISE is now visible in the evening sky after making it through its close approach with the Sun on July 3 without breaking up.

  • According to Space.com, the best time to see the comet during the evening after sunset will be from today through July 19, as it climbs higher into the sky.
  • Right now, moonlight isn't a limiting factor and the comet is still close enough to shine relatively brightly.
  • The best way to spot the comet is to head outside after sunset and look to the northwest horizon. (Use this handy website to see exactly where and where to look depending on your location.)
  • While observers should be able to see the comet with the naked eye from dark areas, the icy object is best seen through binoculars, where details of the comet's tail and nucleus can really be appreciated.

Background: "In its discovery images, Comet NEOWISE appeared as a glowing, fuzzy dot moving across the sky even when it was still pretty far away," Amy Mainzer, NEOWISE principal investigator, said in a NASA statement. "As soon as we saw how close it would come to the Sun, we had hopes that it would put on a good show."

  • Other comets this year, however, haven't been so lucky. Comet ATLAS, for example, seemed promising ahead of its close approach with the Sun, but it broke up as it got closer to the star.
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