I saw this article yesterday on Space.com – How to see Comet NEOWISE in the night sky this month: https://www.space.com/comet-neowise-visibility-july-2020.html. Thought this was a good choice for this week’s Space Saturdays post. The best time for a viewing will be July 22nd as it gets closest to the Earth, 64.3 million miles away.
It’s visible to the naked eye in dark skies!
The early reviews are in: Comet NEOWISE is a hit!
Those who have gotten up before sunrise to gaze into the twilight skies have been greeted by the best comet performance for Northern Hemisphere observers since the 1997 appearance of Comet Hale-Bopp. Indeed, NEOWISE (catalogued C/2020 F3), emphatically ended the nearly quarter-century lack of spectacular comets.
Early fears of another fizzler like comets ATLAS and SWAN quickly eased during June when NEOWISE proved to be an intrinsically bright comet with a highly condensed core. It brightened 100-fold from June 9, when as a seventh-magnitude object it disappeared into the glare of the sun, to June 27, when it appeared in the field of view of the LASCO-3 camera on NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shining at second-magnitude.
Even before Comet NEOWISE arrived at perihelion — its closest point to the sun — observers could glimpse it very low to the northeast horizon, immersed deep in bright twilight, just before sunrise on July 1.
Although the comet is moving away from the sun and beginning to fade, that dimming initially will likely be slow, because it is now approaching the Earth. It will be closest to our planet on the evening of July 22 (“perigee”), when it will be 64.3 million miles (103.5 million km) away. Thereafter, fading will be more rapid as the comet will then be receding from both the Earth and the sun.
The brightness of a sky object is based on magnitude. Bright stars are ranked “first magnitude.” The star Deneb in the Summer Triangle falls into this ranking. The fairly bright stars are of second magnitude. Polaris, the North Star, is a second-magnitude star. A star of third magnitude is considered of medium brightness. Megrez, the star that joins the handle and bowl of the Big Dipper falls into this category.