How to catch Neowise, the brightest comet of the years, now visible

Comet Neowise seen from the Czech Republic on the morning of July 6th.

Jan Tláskal /

Comet Neowise it may just be the largest space snowball in decades. After Swan and Atlas – two more promising comets discovered earlier this year – vanished and vanished, comet C / 2020 F3 (aka Neowise) looks ready to offer a dazzling sight.

Last week it passed a critical point: it survived the closest passage to the sun on July 3rd without breaking from the heat, as many comets often do. Over the weekend, some amateur astrophotographers started sharing beautiful images of the captured comet as it appeared just above the horizon in pre-hidden skies.

When the comet Neowise begins to move farther away from the sun and closer to Earth, it will shift from being visible just before dawn into the evening sky.

According to NASA’s solar system ambassador Eddie Irizarry, should remain visible shortly before and around the time of first light until 11 July. The comet will then dive below the horizon as it passes from being an early riser to a feeling of cocktail hour, hopefully. It will begin to be visible again in the evening around 15-16 July. It should be a little easier to see in the second half of July when it is a little higher in the sky. Until then it will be closer to the northeastern horizon.

Right now, the advice shared by many of those who have successfully identified the comet is to locate it first in the sky using binoculars or a telescope. After finding it and with its tail split, you should be able to follow it with the naked eye.

July 5 – my third consecutive morning observing the comet NEOWISE. When I kept the 7×40 binoculars in my eyes to search …

Published by Fred Espenak over it Sunday 5 July 2020

Astronauts on the International Space Station also spotted the comet, helped by their premium point of view.

The closest passage of the comet from Earth will be July 23, which could be a particularly exciting viewing opportunity if the comet’s brightness continues to stay where it is or even intensifies. It will also rise a little higher in the sky on July 24 and 25 in case you miss the actual overflight date. Comets are notoriously fickle things that could always break and burn at any moment, so let’s cross our fingers.

There is a possibility, for the most optimistic of us, that Neowise can light up dramatically to become a so-called “large comet” that is easily visible and spectacular to be seen with the naked eye. Although there is no strict definition of what a large comet is, it is generally agreed that we didn’t see one from Hale-Bopp in 1997.

Between its appearance in the evening sky mid-month, the comet will move from the northeastern horizon to the northwest and western edges of the sky.

Here’s where you can spot the comet in the next two weeks. Online resources like TheSkyLive they also offer similar night sky maps to aid your search for comets.

This diagram by Sky and Telescope shows where to look for comet Neowise in this month’s night sky.

Sky and Telescope

If you don’t catch the comet before it inevitably vanishes in August or sooner, you will have to wait a while for its next journey through the internal solar system, currently estimated for the year 8786.

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