DR. SKY BLOG

Arizona sky watchers getting eyeful of comet as it moves higher

Jul 15, 2020, 2:00 PM
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

The once-faint Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) continues to impress Arizona sky watchers, as the comet has the distinction of being able to be viewed in both the early morning and early evening skies.

In last week’s report, I mentioned that Comet NEOWISE was an early morning object, low in the north-northeast skies.

Many of you have mentioned the relative ease in which the comet is seen and how much the view improves in a pair of binoculars and small telescope.

As mentioned above, the comet is now moving into the early evening skies and will gain altitude as the month progresses.

Here is a basic finder chart for viewing the comet in the evening sky.

As the comet approached the sun July 3, it survived the intense heat of perihelion and heated up the nucleus of NEOWISE, to produce a most impressive tail!

As the comet recedes from the sun, it will head in the direction of Earth and pass us by a safe distance of 64 million miles July 23.

This will help observers in getting a ringside seat in viewing and photographing the comet. As the comet gains altitude in the evening sky, it moves into darker skies and will appear much easier to follow.

By July 20, the comet will be easy to see in clear and near moonless skies, in the region of the bowl stars of the asterism we call, the Big Dipper.

There are so many great images of the comet on the web and I feel that this one, is one of the best so far.

The image reveals a bifurcated tail and much detail on the central region we call the nucleus.

Speaking of the nucleus, astronomers have determined that the nucleus of Comet NEOWISE is on the order of 3 miles in diameter.

Many comets have a nuclear region that is much smaller than this and sadly, many do not survive the close perihelion passes with the sun.

NEOWISE did survive and seems to be very much intact!

The orbit of the comet, places it in a track, which takes it around the sun in a period of over 6,000 years.

What makes a comet “great”?

In history there have been many comets which were seen easily with the naked eye and Comet NEOWISE may not be in that category … yet!

For those of you who have comet fever, here is a short article on the great comets in recent and past history.

Comet NEOWISE is at least my 20th comet that I have observed since I began doing this back in 1969.

How many have you seen?

To print your own monthly star chart, click here.

To view satellites/dates/times of passage, click here.

Listen to the Dr. Sky Show on KTAR News 92.3 FM every Saturday at 3 a.m.

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Arizona sky watchers getting eyeful of comet as it moves higher