Comet Neowise, which was only discovered in March, is putting on a show in the nighttime sky.
It’s expected to stay in view for the next weeks or – it’s closest pass to earth is July 22, according to NASA – but will then disappear for what scientists expect will be 6,800 years or so.
Neowise is the brightest comet to be visible in the United States is 25 years. It is best viewed with binoculars or a telescope, but it has gotten brighter and in the right location and conditions – cloudless and dark – may also be viewable with your own eyes.
Some skilled observers have reported that – once you spot it with binoculars – you can remove them and glimpse the comet as a fuzzy ball, using only the unaided eye. Using binoculars or other optical aid is a must, though, if you want to see this comet’s splendid split tail.
Look for an unusual faint streak pointing diagonally near the horizon, according to NASA.
RELATED: Skywatching tips from NASA.
From mid-July on, it’s best viewed as an evening object, rising increasingly higher above the northwestern horizon. (Note that observers at lower latitudes will see the comet lower in the sky, while it will appear higher for observers farther north.)
To check for the comet at night, go outside around 10 p.m. and look north/northwest in the sky, right around the horizon. Use the Big Dipper as your guide. The comet will appear in the sky, a little higher each night.
To try to catch it before sunrise, you’ll want to look to the northeast in the sky, about 10 degrees above the horizon. The best early-morning viewing time will be around 5 a.m.
The comet’s official name is Comet C/2020 F3, but it’s known as the more easily remembered Comet Neowise because it was discovered March 27 with the NASA Neowise satellite.
Researchers say the comet is about 3 mile across. Its origins are ancient. “Its nucleus is covered with sooty material dating back to the origin of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago,” according to The Associated Press.
Neowise is visiting from – and returning to – the outer solar system, according to NASA.
The comet is expected to head back out toward our outer solar system in mid-August, but should be visible until then.
Because of its near-parabolic orbit, it will be about 6,800 years before Neowise swings back in view, “so I wouldn’t suggest waiting for the next pass,” said the telescope’s deputy principal investigator, Joe Masiero of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, according to the AP.
Comet Neowise has surprised many by surviving its closest approach to the sun, brightening dramatically, and developing impressive (blue) ion and (white) dust tails, according to NASA.
NASA will host a live discussion about the comet on its NASA Science Live episode, which will air live at 3 p.m. Wednesday on NASA Television and the agency’s website, along with Facebook Live, YouTube,
Includes reporting from Tribune News Service.