Stargazers are in for a treat this month as a newly discovered comet is set to fly through the inner solar system for the first time in 6,800 years and will be visible to the naked eye.
According to AccuWeather, earlier this year two other newly discovered comets, Comet SWAN and Comet ATLAS, were showing promising signs of eventually becoming bright enough to see with the unaided eye, but both eventually fizzled. The third time was the charm when Comet NEOWISE was discovered as it has lived up to astronomers’ predictions that it could become a visible feature in the night sky.
It is now brighter than Halley’s Comet appeared when it zipped through the inner solar system back in 1986
Currently, Comet NEOWISE is only visible in the early morning about one to two hours before sunrise in the northeastern sky. This may mean waking up at 4 a.m. (local time) to spot it before the comet gets lost in the daylight.
“From mid-July on, it’s best viewed as an evening object, rising increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon,” NASA said. “Its closest approach to Earth will be on July 22, at a distance of about 64 million miles (103 million kilometers).” For comparison, the sun is about 93 million miles from Earth.
If cloudy conditions obscure your view, you can wait until the next night to try to look for the comet as it will be visible throughout the balance of July.
However, people may want to look for it sooner rather than later as it will gradually become dimmer and dimmer later in the month as it moves farther and farther away from the sun.
PHOTO: Comet NEOWISE over central Pennsylvania before daybreak on July 9, 2020. (AccuWeather/Brian Lada)