Stargazers and early rising fishermen have a chance to see the newly discovered comet NEOWISE this month as it flies through the inner solar system for the first time in 6,800 years.
Comet NEOWISE has been getting brighter and easier to spot in the early-morning sky, and soon you will be able to see it in the evening after sunset.
“Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) – discovered back in March by NASA’s NEOWISE mission – is getting the attention of skywatchers across the Northern Hemisphere this month,” NASA said in a released statement.
NEOWISE is now brighter than even Halley’s Comet when it appeared in our inner solar system way back in 1986. And if you’re up and about early you might just spot it.
How to view NEOWISE in the sky
You can watch Comet NEOWISE streak across the morning sky with the naked eye. You need to know what time and what direction to point yourself to see it. Right now, it is only visible in the early morning just before sunrise in the northeastern sky. Stargazers all over the country have been getting up at around 4:00am and searching the morning sky for the comet until its too light to see it anymore.
Starting this week, you will also be able to see the comet in the evening sky off to the northwest right below the Big Dipper.
NASA says “from mid-July on, it’s best viewed as an evening object, rising increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon. Its closest approach to Earth will be on July 22, at a distance of about 64 million miles (103 million kilometers).”
However, you might want to take a look at it sooner rather than later as it will gradually become dimmer later in the month as it moves away from the sun.
What does Comet NEOWISE look like?
Do a search on google or on your Instagram account for amateur photos of Comet NEOWISE to get a sense of what you are looking for out there. Yes, it is a brilliant object streaking through the sky, but to the uninitiated, it may just look like a fuzzy star with a tail.
However, if you have a telescope or good pair of binoculars you might be able to see more details, especially in the twilight time right before the interchange of dark and light.
As of July 8, Comet NEOWISE had a magnitude of 1.6, according to TheSkyLive.com, a website that provides real-time data on the brightness of objects in the night sky. While this is better and brighter than its predecessor Halley’s comet it doesn’t match the intensity of the Hale-Bopp comet which visited us in 1997 and was visible in the sky for more than a year.