After two other comets this spring suggested they might become bright naked eye objects and then fizzled, it now appears that Comet NEOWISE will deliver, having survived its closest approach to the Sun to now brighten towards first magnitude.
For the northern hemisphere, this is what to expect if you wish to see it:
In the morning sky, the first views of NEOWISE could come as early as July 5 or 6 in the morning sky, very low above the northeast horizon. By around July 11, the comet will reach an altitude of nearly 10 degrees — for comparison, 10 degrees is roughly equal to the width of your fist held at arm’s length. Then over the next 10 days it will gradually slide back down toward the north-northeast horizon, eventually disappearing from dawn visibility.
A far-better viewing perspective will become available in the evening sky starting around July 12, when it will appear low in the northwest sky. In the evenings to follow, the comet will rapidly climb higher in the sky.
On July 22, NEOWISE will make its closest approach to the Earth, a distance of 64 million miles (103 million km). By July 25, the comet will appear 30 degrees (“three fists”) up from the west-northwest horizon as darkness falls. And on July 30-31st, the comet will be passing just to the north of the fine star cluster of Coma Berenices or Berenice’s Hair.
Will this comet brighten more to become comparable to glorious Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997? Keep your fingers crossed.
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