Comet NEOWISE Brightens Evening Skies This Week

Jul 21, 2020

A comet with a spectacular fan-like tail is crossing the evening skies this week, making its closest approach to Earth on Thursday night. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports on how to see it.

Comet NEOWISE above Mount Elden in Flagstaff
Credit Amanda Bosh, Lowell Observatory

Comet NEOWISE was discovered earlier this year by a NASA space telescope of the same name. It’s barely visible to the naked eye. Binoculars or a small telescope are necessary to see the comet’s split tail. Look for it in the northwest sky just after sunset, below the constellation of the Big Dipper. Comets move much slower than shooting stars, but it’s rising a little higher in the sky each night. On Thursday it will make its closest approach to Earth, coming within 64 million miles (or about two-thirds of the distance from the Earth to the Sun). The comet will appear above and to the right of a thin crescent moon. Then it will begin to fade and won’t return to Earth’s skies for many thousands of years.