Do you have one last chance to see comet NEOWISE ̵
You’re late for the party. C / 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is visible to the naked eye for most of July, but now fades as it moves away from Earth and back to the outer solar system.
However, everything is not lost because all you need to see Comet NEOWISE this weekend is any pair of binoculars.
Here’s how to find comet NEOWISE before it disappears.
Step 1: Drive to a dark place
Light pollution is a big problem for comets. It reduces the contrast between the comet and the darkness, which means it stands out far less than it should. This means that you will almost certainly no longer be able to find Comet INFORMATION with an unadulterated eye within the city limits.
However, go to a decent dark place – with a clear view to the northwest, which preferably does not overlook a city or town – and you can there is a chance.
You can massively increase your chances of seeing Comet NEOWISE with your own eyes by taking some binoculars with you; 10×50 are great for all types of stars, but whatever you have, you will have a great chance to see Comet NEOWISE with your own eyes.
Step 2: Know where and when to look
Comet NEOWISE is right at the top of sight with the naked eye in the constellation Coma Berenix. It can be found around the north-northwest horizon as soon as it gets dark – about 90 minutes after sunset. However, you can look until late at night; the comet will move to the northern, then northeastern night skies.
The trick is to find the Big Dipper / Plow – this easily recognizable shape of seven bright stars – and then follow a diagonal line to the western horizon. About halfway down this line is the approximate location of Comet NEOWISE this weekend.
Here are three star charts, one for the next three nights:
How to find comet NEOWISE on Friday, July 31, 2020
How to find comet NEOWISE on Saturday, August 1, 2020
How to find comet NEOWISE on Sunday, August 2, 2020
Step 3: Use binoculars to observe it
Take your binoculars in your hands. You squeeze your elbows, don’t you? Raise your elbows so that they are nailed to your ribs. If you can, lean against the wall or tree. This will give you some stability and give you a chance to find – and get a stable look at – the comet. You can even rest your binoculars on a wall, rock or the top of a car.
Now estimate where you think the comet is using these diagrams and draw a line to the horizon. Now place your binoculars on this point and raise them to the comet. Be patient and repeat until you notice our fuzzy little friend.
The comet appears to be traveling down to the horizon, its tail behind it, higher in the sky.
Tips for observing comet NEOWISE
Peripheral vision of the human eye is most sensitive to brightness, while the center of the eye is more sensitive to color. So when observing a comet through binoculars, look slightly to the left or right of it and the tail. In this way, your peripheral vision will better recognize its brightness. This technique is called “averted vision”.
It also helps to adjust your eyes in the dark. Stay somewhere completely dark for 20 minutes – and don’t look at your smartphone – and your students will expand to let in as much light as possible. This way you will see far more stars and you will see the comet more clearly.
Find while you can, because this massive ball of ice hasn’t returned in 6,800 years.
With a wish for a clear sky and wide eyes.