It’s been quite awhile since Southern New Englanders have been able to see a comet with the naked eye. It might be since Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997 that a comet has graced our skies so vividly. Well, that has changed as Comet Neowise is in our skies.
The comet, named after the NASA mission that discovered it (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer), is actually headed back out to the icy cold reaches of outerspace. NEOWISE came closest to the Sun on July 3, and while it approached the Sun, much of its ice and dust began to shed, forming its tail.
Of course the most famous comet of all time is Halley’s Comet which last passed through the inner solar system in 1986. Halley’s comet is on a 75 year trip around the sun and will be back in 2061. Many of us will see Halley’s Comet again. No one will have another chance to see Comet NEOWISE because it won’t be back for at least 4,500 years!!
People have already been seeing the comet in our skies, but until very recently it was only visible in the early morning hours. This week, the comet is rising higher in the evening skies.
So how can you see NEOWISE? We’ll able to see it through July 23rd, and it will become higher in the sky each night. Find a dark sky. The comet is not extremely bright, so a sky away from city lights will be best. Look to the north-northwest sky about an hour after sunset. It might be good to have a pair of binoculars to spot it at first. You might see more of the tail with binoculars, too.
Be patient while looking for it and when you find it, enjoy it! It won’t be around for another 4,500 years!