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How to catch a peek of comet NEOWISE, a rare event

Credit: Joe Garza‎
Credit: Dixie J. Burbank‎
Downtown Madison - Kirby Wright

MADISON (WKOW) - The newly-discovered comet, comet NEOWISE, is creating quite the show in the sky during the month of July.

Astronomers discovered the comet via satellite back in March, as it approached the sun. The comet is officially known as Comet C2020 F3 NEOWISE, named after the NASA mission that spotted it.

Neowise is considered a fairly large comet, coming in at about 3 miles across. It can provide a stunning view from Earth. The comet is made up of material dating back to the origin of our solar system, scientists said. 

The comet has been putting on a spectacular show in the early hours before sunrise in the Northern Hemisphere for days.

As of Saturday, the comet started showing in the evening just after sunset. To catch a glimpse of it, people in the Northern Hemisphere can look to the northwestern sky, just below the Big Dipper constellation. 80 minutes after sunset is prime time for viewing right now.

Scientists said the comet will be visible across the Northern Hemisphere for about another month. The closest it will get to Earth is Wednesday, July 22. NASA said it will be one of the brightest comets this century.

According to NASA, it will become easier to see as July continues. The comet appears higher in the sky for people farther north, while people at lower latitudes will view it lower in the sky. 

It may be visible to the naked eye, but NASA recommends using binoculars or a telescope to spot its rather long tail. 

The event is literally once-in-a-lifetime — it will be about 6,800 years before the comet returns, after completing its path around the sun, scientists said.

Pictures of the comet in this article were sent in from viewers.

Katherine Noel

Katherine Noel

Forecaster, WKOW TV, Madison

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