Look up after sunset to spot a comet

Saturday, 18 Jul, 2020

The brightest comet many of us have seen in the past quarter-century is preparing for its closeup over the Mother Lode.

Comet NEOWISE is seen in the sky above the "Seven Magic Mountains" art installation by artist Ugo Rondinone in Jean, Nevada on July 15, 2020. Mike Murray states the comet was fashioned when the solar program was fashioned 4.6 billion decades ago.

The NEOWISE comet has been exciting space scientists since it was discovered in March.

And the best may be yet to come. In all likelihood, another comet will glow in the night sky before Halley's return, but stargazers will need to be patient and wait for the next comet to emerge from the depths of space.

Officially named C/2020 F3, it has been informally dubbed Neowise, after the acronym for the instrument that spotted it. You don't have to wake up early to catch this celestial sight!

NEOWISE is visible only to observers in the Northern Hemisphere and should remain bright enough to spot through the middle of August.

A comets dust tail can be 10 million miles long. It's unusual to think that the awesome doubleheader of Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake arrived right before the era of film gave way to digital astrophotography. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. The comet will appear right below the Big Dipper. It's now getting better to see at dusk low to the northwest as it slinks across the constellation of the Lynx and into the paws of the Great Bear Ursa Major, retracing the footsteps of the asterism known as the 'Three Leaps of the Gazelle'. It will be visible after sunset for around 20 minutes for the next 20 days.

Todd Slisher, Executive Director and astronomer at Longway Planetarium in Flint, says, " I'd say that this comet for visual charm tops any that I've viewed in my lifetime apart from Hale Bopp, Hyukataka, and Comet West. The blue tail is an ion tail built of particles charged by the sun.

NEOWISE has two tails visible. Image credit and copyright: Johnathan Truong.

Brar believes this is a great way to bring people together and get them interested in "what goes on beyond our own planet". Mathew Browne has a photo-tutorial on PetaPixel on how to shoot the comet with your tripod-mounted DSLR and get unbelievable results.

(As above) "Using binoculars, using a telescope is going to improve your view of the comet, but it can be seen with the naked eye", she says. The comet will appear higher in the sky as the month progresses.

Comet NEOWISE made its closest approach to our star on July 3, coming within the orbit of Mercury.