Comet NEOWISE, officially designated C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, was first spotted in deep space on March 27 by a NASA telescope. On July 3, the comet swung by the Sun and survived the flyby, allowing astronomers in the Northern Hemisphere to see NEOWISE this month. The icy comet is now racing across the northern skies and will be closest to Earth on July 23.
On that day, Comet NEOWISE will zip by from a distance of about 64 million miles (103 million km).
And this might be your last chance to see the comet because once it is gone, it will not be seen again for another 6,800 years.
NASA said: “For those hoping to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone, there are several observing opportunities over the coming days when it will become increasingly visible shortly after sunset in the northwest sky.
“If you’re looking at the sky without the help of observation tools, Comet NEOWISE will likely look like a fuzzy star with a bit of a tail, so using binoculars or a small telescope is recommended to get the best views of this object.”
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How to see Comet NEOWISE this month:
Comet NEOWISE can be seen right after sunset and right before sunrise in the Northern Hemisphere.
But from about mid-July, the comet is best seen in the evening hours.
You can visit a website like TimeandDate.com to find out the exact times of sunrise and sunset for your location.
When at dusk, face the northwest skies and keep your eyes fairly low on the horizon.
There are several observing opportunities over the coming days
Since the start of the month, the comet has been climbing higher and higher, passing under the Big Dipper or Plough asterism.
However, as with all stargazing, there are a few key tips you should keep in mind.
NASA said: “Find a spot away from city lights with an unobstructed view of the sky.
“Just after sunset, look below Big Dipper in the northwest sky.
“If you have them, bring binoculars or a small telescope to the get the best view of this dazzling display.”
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Having an unobstructed and clear view of the horizon is critical.
You will also want to avoid sources of light pollution such as street lamps and buildings.
City lights can wash out the skies and if weather conditions are unfavourable, you might not see the comet at all.
NASA said: “It is easily seen with binoculars – those living in brightly-lit cities may have to use them to see it.”
Under perfect conditions, you should be able to see it with the naked eye.
NASA said: “Comets are notoriously unpredictable, so it’s impossible to know if this one will remain so easy to spot, but if it does, it should become easier for more people to observe as July goes on.
“Its closest approach to Earth will be on July 22, at a distance of about 64 million miles (103 million kilometres).
“From mid-July on, it’s best viewed as an evening object, rising increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon.
“Note that observers at lower latitudes will see the comet lower in the sky, while it will appear higher for observers farther north.”