C/2020 F3 NEOWISE

This bright comet was discovered by NEOWISE (hence the name) on March 27, 2020. Its orbit took the 5km comet around the Sun in early July and it is now headed away from the Sun, with closest approach to the Earth due on 23 July (at about 100 million km).

It has developed a tail and can be seen in the northern sky to the unaided eye. On July 11 look to the north east before sunrise (from 3.30am to 4.30am). It will be highest as the sky is brightening. There’s a catch-22 here –  at the earlier time it is very low and might be hard to see, depending on trees or buildings on your local horizon. Later, it will be higher, but then the sky is brighter. Clouds along the horizon are also an issue – good luck!

The comet is moving across the northern sky, so will be visible to the north west at sunset from 12 July.  Overnight the comet will be visible due north and then to the north east before sunrise. The comet will continue to sweep across the sky, very near the Plough (see the below image for the July 21 sky).

To help work out where to look, the excellent free planetarium software Stellarium can help. Add the comet to Stellarium version 0.20 (there is a guide on how to do that here). Note that Stellarium shows an estimated predicted brightness of the comet. Comets are notoriously unpredictable, so we recommend comet hunting this weekend. Please share any pics you get.

UPDATE: as of 17 July, easily visible to the north west at midnight to the unaided eye, long, elegant tail!

Stellarium screenshot, 11 July, 4am from Cork

Stellarium screenshot, 21 July, 11.30pm from Cork

 

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