Home / Science / Here’s when and how you can see Comet NEOWISE

Here’s when and how you can see Comet NEOWISE



Comets are the ultimate heavenly highlight for me because they are flawless, large pieces of dust, ice and gas that are left over when our solar system was created!

We don’t see comets too often. When we get the chance, it’s very special.

When comets approach the sun, part of the ice melts and the gases in the comet sublimate. As the comet roams through space, dust and gas form a ball around the nucleus (called a coma) and the tail that we see (in fact, most comets have two tails ̵

1; a dust tail and a gas tail, which is more difficult to see).

Here’s a nice shot of Comet NEOWISE, taken last weekend by Mike Thompson in White Lake, Michigan. Keep in mind that this is a 15 second exposure – it’s not what you would see with the naked eye:

Comet NEOWISE
Comet NEOWISE (Mike Thompson)

Comet NEOWISE is not what we scientists call a “big comet”. In other words, it is not so bright that it can be clearly seen in the sky with the naked eye. However, if you live in an area with dark skies, you should be able to see it poorly. It’s really cool, but using binoculars makes it very special!

So far, you have had to get up at 5 a.m. to see the comet NEOWISE. And I know a lot of people who will never get up at 5 a.m. Not even for a comet. However, I have good news: NEOWISE will switch to an evening property next week! So where do you look Fortunately, there is a very well-known constellation that you can use as a guide. In this video I show you where and when to search:

Take a look around 9:45 p.m. or 10:00 p.m. and by next week it should be high enough that most of us can see it unless you have a lot of trees or buildings that block your view to the northwest. Try to move away from the city lights and get to a place with dark sky! And if you miss Comet NEOWISE this time, don’t worry – it will be back in 6,800 years.

And here is something special for you. Have you ever wondered what a comet looks like up close? There is a spaceship for that. It’s called Rosetta and flew to Comet 67P, orbited it, and then deployed a lander named Philae on the surface! Here are a few photos of Comet 67P – one by Rosetta in orbit and one by Philae on the surface!

Comet 67P
Comet 67P (NASA)
Rosetta picture
Rosetta picture (NASA)

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