Neowise is the brightest comet seen from Earth since 1996

The remarkable Comet Neowise that has been exciting early-morning stargazers earlier in July is now visible in the evening sky for our Northern Hemisphere readers.

For those of you who are in the right hemisphere, it’s something you don’t want to miss as the comet won’t be back again for approximately the next 6 800 years.

Comet Neowise was only discovered in March this year

Comet Neowise, officially known in the scientific community by the blindingly dull title of C/2020 F3, was only discovered in March of this year by a spacecraft known as Neowise, which is short for Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Space Explorer.

Thereafter it was spotted numerous times as it approached our part of the galaxy. Among those to see the comet first were the astronauts on the International Space Station, professional observatories scattered around the world and, of course, the legions of amateur astronomers out there.

Now, as it has climbed higher in the evening sky, it is visible to the naked eye or anyone with binoculars or a small telescope. In fact, it’s the brightest comet we’ve seen from Earth since Comet Hale-Bopp was in our skies in 1995-96.

If you’re looking with the naked eye, it will seem like a fuzzy star with a small tail, according to NASA.

Photo credit: Facebook

Neowise zips through our ‘hood at 231 000km/h

If you are lucky enough to be stargazing in the Northern Hemisphere right now, the experts say you should wait for about 45 minutes after sunset and then look northwest right under the Big Dipper.

According to NASA, Neowise is currently around 111-million kilometres from Earth and travelling at around 231 000km/h. It takes an elliptical orbit that will carry it far out from the sun, before it slowly makes its way back in our direction over the next 6 000 or so years.

“This comet is about 5km across and most comets are about half water and half dust,” said Emily Kramer of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

“It’s about 13 million Olympic swimming pools of water,” she explained. “So that’s a lot of water.”

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