NEOWISE is a comet being seen in the evening sky right now that will not be visible to us for another 6,800 years. It’s evident then that people are excited and can’t wait to catch a glimpse of the celestial body. Some have already done that and some have even captured amazing pictures that are all over the Internet right now. Actually named C/2020 F3, the comet is called NEOWISE because it was spotted by NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope.
The First Spotting
This comet was first spotted on March 27 this year by a team using the said telescope. It’s a non-periodic comet and the third discovered in the second half of March 2020. NEOWISE made its closest approach to the Sun on July 3, 2020. It’s this particular passage that increased the comet’s orbital period from about 4500 years to about 6800 years. July 23 is the date on which the comet will be closest to the Earth, so that’s the date on which it will be wise to try and catch a glimpse of it? But where to find it?
How To See NEOWISE
The best advice is to drive to a remote location, preferably a higher altitude. The comet will be visible for a window of around 20 minutes between 7 pm to 7:30 pm. You must be facing the Northwestern sky in order to spot it. It will be very much near the horizon. A pair of binoculars, or better yet, a telescope will give you an enhanced view of the tail of this comet. If there are clouds obstructing the view, you will be out of luck.
If you’re aware of constellations, it will be even easier for you to spot NEOWISE. You need to find the Big Dipper in the Northwest sky. It’s a large asterism consisting of seven bright stars of the constellation Ursa Major. It’s one of the most important constellations in the night sky as it was said to have guided sailors on their long voyages in ancient times.
What Is A Comet?
In their most basic form, comets are massive balls of ice that move around in outer space. Their orbital inclinations are usually high and not near the ecliptic where most solar system objects are found. As they move around, the sun’s radiation causes the comet to emit huge amounts of gasses. It’s these gases that come to our view as tails. They are essentially travelling around in space for millions of years.
The most comet famous among them all is Halley’s comet, which comes around every 75 or 76 years. It’s next going to return in 2061. It’s the first comet to have been observed in detail by a spacecraft, which is why we have lots of information about it. For instance, it’s now known that the surface of Halley’s comet is made of mostly dust and non-volatile materials, with only a small portion of it being icy. 1986 was when the comet was last seen.