They’ve been referred to as “dirty snowballs” but you may recognize them by the more commonly used title of the comet. There’s a certain comet that’s gained some recent notoriety. By now you’ve probably heard about the Comet NEOWISE.
Maybe you’ve seen the pictures or even seen it in person. But if you haven’t and still want to check it out, you’re in luck. The best time to see this celestial ball of ice is this evening (7/22/20). Today is its closest approach to Earth at a distance of 64 million miles away.
To see the Comet NEOWISE, you don’t have to get up early or stay up late. The best viewing is around an hour after sunset. Look to the northwest sky just under the Big Dipper. If you don’t have a small telescope or binoculars, you can still see the comet with your naked eye. It’ll just look like a fuzzy star with a tail.
We’re seeing this comet right now because it happens to be in the inner solar system. It’s heading for the outer solar system which means we won’t see it for a while after this month. It’s got a several thousand-year journey until it orbits back around. At three miles across, it’s considered a large comet and can be seen through the end of July. It just gets a little more faint each day as it moves away from Earth and the Sun.
The Comet NEOWISE is a newly discovered comet. It was found in March of this year. Its technical name is C/2020 F3. But it’s given name is NEOWISE. That’s an acronym for the telescope NASA uses to detect potentially hazardous asteroids and comets. That telescope it named, Near-Earth Object Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer
This is a unique comet because not only can you see it with the naked eye, but we’re the only generation that will see it for several thousand years. It won’t pass by Earth for another 68-hundred years. And with all the craziness some would say 2020 has brought, it has also brought us something beautiful that we can all enjoy together.