Comet NEOWISE: Why it’s your last chance for 7,000 YEARS to see it in action

First spotted in March on images shot by the NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope, the comet has grown in brightness to become visible to the naked eye. Comet NEOWISE passed its closest approach to the Sun on July 3 and this Thursday, July 23, it will make its closest approach to Earth.

Amateur astrologer have been urged to take advantage of the arrival of the newly-discovered comet visible to the naked eye over the skies of the UK this month.

By the third week of July, the comet will be on view all night long

Dr Robert Massey

Stargazers should keep an eye out as Comet NEOWISE will not return to our neighbourhood for another 6,800 years.

The mountain-sized extraterrestrial object made its closest approach to the Sun on July 3 and is now shining brightly in the night skies.

Dr Robert Massey, from the Royal Astrological Society, said Comet NEOWISE was last in the inner Solar System 4,500 years ago and it was not expected to return for another 6,800 years.


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He said: “I would encourage everyone to take a look if they can, if they have clear skies, and get away from light pollution if they can.”

NEOWISE, named after the NASA telescope used to first spot it, should be visible for the next few weeks in the northern skies, near the bright star Capella.

“The tail was visible, and there was the added bonus of the noctilucent clouds.”

“During the rest of July, Comet NEOWISE will head through Lynx and into Ursa Major, passing beneath the familiar asterism of seven bright stars known as the Big Dipper, or the Plough.

“This will keep it low in the sky before dawn, but it will increasingly be visible earlier in the night, in a darker sky.

“By the third week of July, the comet will be on view all night long and stargazers will be able to view it before going to bed, rather than having to get out of their warm beds before dawn.”

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How to find Comet NEOWISE:

To see the comet from the UK, look north in the early hours of the morning.

Find the Plough, which is conveniently located between the bright yellow star of Capella to the east, and the orange star of Arcturus to the west.

Comet NEOWISE will appear as a misty spot, close to the horizon.

The comet’s tail will be pointing straight up, although you are unlikely to see this with the naked eye.

The best you can hope for is a slight elongation of the central patch of light.

However, if you take binoculars with you, this will increase the amount of detail you can see.

Unfortunately, the comet is too far north to be visible from the southern hemisphere.

NEOWISE has been confirmed as being one of the brightest comets since comet Hale-Bopp in 1997.

How to photograph Comet NEOWISE:

For photographing the comet, you need a reasonably long exposure in order to capture NEOWISE.

An exposure setting of approximately 5 to 10 seconds is roughly what to expect.

For this you will need to use your lens at its widest, maximum aperture – and then set a relatively high ISO in order to give you the correct exposure.

An ISO of between 800 and 3200 is what to expect – the exact setting will depend, amongst other things on the maximum aperture of your lens.

A tripod is therefore essential if you want sharp shots of Comet NEOWISE.

You can use any lens, but the best shots us a short telephoto setting – so as to get the comet a reasonable size in the frame.

A key point is that you should try to find a camera position where you can include some foreground interest – some rocks, say, or a building, to provide some context to the image.

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