Puerto Vallarta, Mexico - Stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere are hoping to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE as it zips through the inner solar system before it speeds away into the depths of space.
Discovered on March 27, 2020 by NASA's Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission, Comet NEOWISE has been visible low on the horizon in the early morning sky since early July, but has transitioned into an evening comet and is now putting on a dazzling nighttime display.
Once it disappears from view, Comet NEOWISE will not be visible in Earth's skies for another 6,800 years, according to NASA.
For those hoping to catch a glimpse of NEOWISE before it's gone, there are several opportunities over the next couple of days when it will become increasingly visible as the skies darken. About an hour after the sun sets, look for the Big Dipper constellation in the northwestern sky. Just below it, you'll see the comet.
If you're looking at the sky with the naked eye, Comet NEOWISE will likely look like a fuzzy star with a bit of a tail, but with a pair of binoculars or a small telescope the comet will be more clear and the tail will be easier to spot.
The celestial guest will make its closest approach to Earth on Thursday, July 23 at a distance of 64 million miles - about equal to Mercury's average distance from Earth. The comet will appear all night under the Big Dipper constellation.
For those hoping to see Comet NEOWISE, NASA recommends that you:
• Find a spot away from city lights with an unobstructed view of the sky
• Just after sunset, look below the Big Dipper in the northwest sky
• If you have them, bring binoculars or a small telescope to get the best views
While comets are unpredictable and can disappear from view at any time, astronomers predict that we should be able to see it for the rest of the month.
Sources: NASA • CNN