11 July 2020

On seeing Comet NEOWISE

As suggested in this Sky & Telescope article from Bob King, "whatever you do, see this comet." We have a rare and wonderful opportunity to see a comet taking shape and revealing itself day after day. Comets come and go unexpectedly and often show promise that they might develop into something but then fizzle out and disappoint. Comet NEOWISE (also known as C/2020 F3) is living up to expectations and is now a naked-eye object visible in the early morning skies. You will need to get up early to see it for the next few days, but it is worth the effort. And if you don't manage to see it by the 15th of July, it will appear in the evening sky after that. The image on the right comes from a member of the San Francisco Amateur Astronomers, my old club, with NEOWISE over the Golden Gate Bridge. 
Image by Moshen Chan

The most important thing if you want to see NEOWISE is to have a clear view to the north, either the north-east in the morning or the north-west in the evening. This Sky & Telescope article provides detailed charts where to look for the next two weeks. As they point out, you will have best results for the next few days 1-2 hours before sunrise, or after the 15th 1-2 hours after sunset. 

I had to get up very early two days ago (3:00 am here in Munich) to see it. I took a short walk to the fields nearby my neighborhood where I had a clear view to the north and there it was, a lovely glowing coma and a long and smooth tail pointing upwards, away from the Sun, easily visible to the naked eye but a special treat in my 10x50 binoculars. If you have binoculars be sure to use them in the hunt. A telescope is unnecessary and the magnification will be too strong. 

Good luck finding NEOWISE and enjoy this rare spectacle. 

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