If you haven’t seen it already, this coming weekend will be the best chance to catch Comet NEOWISE.
It may not be considered a “Great Comet” in the history books, but it’s certainly putting on a good show. Comet NEOWISE continues to shine in the night sky, but now a 4AM wake-up call is no longer necessary. Earlier this week the comet began to be visible in the evening sky, but remained very close to the horizon. Over the next several days it will move upwards significantly making it much easier to spot.
This sky chart from Sky and Telescope shows where the comet will be located over the coming days. Fortunately it will be close to a very easy to spot object: the Big Dipper. The best time to get a look falls around 30-45 minutes after sunset or later. This gives the sky time to darken making the comet stand out much better. All you need is a good northwest view and you should be golden. A pair of binoculars will make it look even more spectacular, but it should remain easily visible to the naked eye through sometime around the 1st of August.
The comet’s intensity can mostly be attributed to a large nucleus. Astronomers were able to determine that the core of NEOWISE is around 5km wide, or a little over 3 miles. This has helped it to remain stable on it’s trip around the sun and kept it from the explosive fate of it’s two 2020 predecessors. It will make it’s closest approach to the Earth on July 23rd before beginning to fade rather quickly on it’s exit.
So, now’s your chance to get a good look at NEOWISE. Just head out after sunset and look northwest!