Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE has taken the world of amateur astronomy by storm ever since it emerged in our skies earlier this month. The bright comet and its long tail is following a path across the northern skies, climbing higher with each consecutive day. Tomorrow (July 23) Comet NEOWISE will make its closest flyby of Earth, coming within 64 million miles (103 million km) of the planet.
But hurry up – the comet has already started to fade and once it passes out of sight, it will not be back for another 6,800 years.
Dr Ian Whittaker, a space physics expert at Nottingham Trent University, said: “Comet Neowise has an orbit of almost 6,800 years, meaning that the last generation of people to see it would have lived during the fifth millennium BC.
“This was a time well before the written word, when the global human population was about 40 million people.”
Grab a pair of binoculars or a small telescope and read on below to find out how to track the comet tonight.
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How to see Comet NEOWISE tonight:
Comet NEOWISE is visible in the northwestern skies after sunset this month, passing under the Big Dipper or Plough asterism.
If you are going outside, make sure you have an unobstructed view of the horizon and the skies are dark and clear.
Sources of light pollution such as street lamps will hinder your viewing opportunities.
Dr Whittaker said: “Going out and observing the comet is a great activity that everybody can do during their own form of lockdown.
“The further North you live the easier it will be to spot the comet as it will be higher up on the horizon.
“It will appear as a smudge on the Northern horizon, but with binoculars in a dark place you should get an excellent view of the comet.
“If you want to take a professional looking image then you will need a long exposure on your camera, this can be achieved with a mobile phone with appropriate apps.”