A new comet discovered in March by a NASA satellite should be visible for many in Southern California this week shortly after sunset in the northwest sky.
If you’re looking with the naked eye, Comet NEOWISE will appear as a fuzzy star with a bit of a tail. Using binoculars or a small telescope will give you a better view.
The comet was named NEOWISE after NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, an orbiting infrared telescope launched in 2009 and adapted to search for objects near Earth like asteroids and comets.
A comet is a “cosmic snowball” of ice and dust that travels in a highly elliptical orbit around the sun. As it passes the sun and heats up — as NEOWISE did on July 3 — a tail of dust, gas and electrically charged particles is created.
To see the comet, try to find a spot away from bright lights with an unobstructed view of the northwest sky. About 45 minutes after sunset, look for it below and slightly to the left of the Big Dipper.
The comet will come closest to Earth on July 22, but should be visible for the rest of the month, rising higher in the sky each night as it travels back out of the solar system at 144,000 miles per hour.
But don’t wait to long– it won’t be back for 6,800 years.
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