How do I see the Neowise Comet? A once in a lifetime opportunity

ITV Anglia meteorologist Chris Page explains how to catch a glimpse of Comet Neowise


It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a comet in the sky and it's here throughout July.

It's currently 68 million miles away from Earth (around 400 times further away than the moon) but it's visible with the naked eye.

It remains relatively still, but will move through the night from the north-west towards the north-east.

Neowise Comet from Brancaster Staith Credit: Gary Pearson

It made its once-in-our-lifetimes close approach to the Sun on 3rd July 2020, and will cross outside Earth's orbit on its way back to the outer parts of the solar system by mid-August.

NASA
Neowise Comet from Thurne Mill, Norfolk Credit: Shaun Reynolds

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was discovered in late March by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer - hence the name.

It has become brighter, as it reached its closest approach to the sun inside the orbit of Mercury, late last week.

The comet is around three miles across and is covered with sooty, dark particles leftover from its formation near the birth of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago.

When is the best time to see the Neowise Comet?

For us here in the UK your best bet is to view it between midnight and 3.30am.

As it's close to the horizon it can make it difficult to see at sunrise and sunset. Although it will be at its best around 80 minutes before sunrise.

Of course weather permitting with that pesky cloud cover - you can find your latest Anglia Weather forecast here.

Where is the Neowise Comet now?

Tonight the comet will be visible looking directly north but over the coming nights it will transfer westwards as it moves in its orbit.

The comet passes closest to Earth on the 23 July 2020, when it will be below and just to the right of star constellation "The Plough".

On the 25 July 2020, it will be directly under it, before continuing to move west and slightly upwards.

You do not need binoculars to see the comet, though they will enhance your viewing.

Location of the Neowise Comet on Monday 13th July 2020 Credit: Illustration taken from www.stellarium-web.org
Expected location of Comet Neowise over the coming few nights Credit: The Weather Network

What is a Comet?

Comets are frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system composed primarily of dust, rock and ice.

They range from a few miles to tens of miles wide, but as they orbit closer to the sun, they heat up and release gases and dust into a glowing head that can be larger than a planet.

This material forms a tail that stretches millions of miles.

Neowise Comet from London Credit: Ben James

Comets are notoriously unpredictable, so it's impossible to know if this one will remain so easy to spot, but if it does, it should become easier for more people to observe as July goes on.

NASA

The best views - depending on the weather - could come on July 22-23, when it will make its closest pass to Earth.

Neowise Comet seen from Northumberland Credit: Andy Cowan
Neowise Comet from Shotley Gate Credit: Gary Edwards