Comet Neowise: 'Prime-Time' Viewing in the Sky This Week
A 5-kilometer-(3-mile)-wide chunk of space ice is shooting past the Earth this month. Called comet Neowise, this cosmic orphan appears in our skies only once every 6,800 years — always with long and breathtaking tails consisting of blue and yellow dust and gas.
So we're here for it, with quick tips on when and where to see it.
Comet Neowise visible to naked eye this month
This is the only chance for us to see the roughly 5-kilometer-(3-mile)-wide comet before it careens away from our planet, not to be seen again for nearly seven millennia.
Neowise comes from the most distant reaches of our solar system and had a close-call with the sun on July 3 — 16 million kilometers (10 million miles) closer than Mercury's orbit. But Neowise wasn't destroyed and continued its sojourn to Earth, reports Business Insider.
Now everyone in the northern hemisphere can see it.
The comet is slated for its closest pass on July 23, coming inside of roughly 103 million kilometers (64 million miles), according to NASA.
Then it will careen away — to the very edge of the solar system. It won't return to our neighborhood for 6,768 years.
How to see comet Neowise
Many comet viewers have had to pull all-nighters or awake pre-dawn to catch a glimpse of Neowise as it rises above the eastern horizon. But Space.com reported that "prime-time" viewing hours will actually come in the evenings this week — roughly 80 minutes after sunset.
Morning birds will be able to see the comet at roughly 10 degrees above the northeast horizon — roughly the same width of a clenched fist held at arm's length. In the next few days, it will be even lower -- at roughly 5 degrees on Saturday. Afterward, it will sadly fall too low for our eyes to see amid the light of dawn.
Sunset is 'prime-time' for comet Neowise
However, after sunset, the comet will appear higher in the night sky, which will make it easier to see as the week goes on. When we reach Sunday, the celestial orphan will be 20 degrees (roughly two fists) above the horizon. It the evening, Neowise rises in the northwest.
Don't bother bringing your binoculars or telescope — this astronomic event is visible to the naked eye in dark skies. Since city lights obscure our view of the universe above via a process called light pollution, it may be easier to see Neowise from outside city limits.
Comet Neowise viewed from space
Comet Neowise achieves peak brightness this week, but its growing presence in the sky ahs already given photographers, amateur videographers, and even astronauts a rare chance to snap impressive shots.
When the International Space Station flew over the Middle East, the recently discovered Comet Neowise and its mesmerizing twin tails rose above the Earth's predawn horizon. But almost as soon as it appeared, it disappeared in the blinding glare of the sun.
"Right before the sun came up, that comet became visible during that short period of time when it was still close to the sun, but the sun was still hidden by the Earth," said NASA astronaut Bob Behnken, who traveled to the ISS aboard SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship, reports The New York Times.
However, those of us stuck here on Earth — there's still a way to see Comet Neowise: simply step outside pre-dawn or after sunset, look up, and enjoy the show.