Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is set to make its closest approach to Earth on July 23, 2020, when it will pass at a distance of 0.69 AU. Some experienced observers under clear skies have already reported spotting the comet with the naked eye.
The comet was discovered on March 27 by NASA’s Near-Earth Objects Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) space telescope. It reached perihelion, or its closest point to the Sun, on July 3.
Comets often disintegrate around their perihelion, but NEOWISE had raised hopes that it will put on a dazzling show after two previous comets this year--ATLAS and SWAN-- crumbled away.
Given NEOWISE's current magnitude of 1.8, it is visible to the naked eye under dark skies but "might require a small binocular from light polluted areas," according to EarthSky.
The comet will remain in the dawn sky until around July 11 and become visible again, this time in the evening, around July 16.
On July 5, Flagstaff, Arizona-based photographer Jeremy Perez captured the comet and described it as "an easy naked-eye object, but really rewarding through binoculars."
The object was also captured on the same date from by astrophotographer Philipp Salzgeber from Austria, as well as space writer Paul Sutherland from the UK.
I have a strong dislike of early mornings—but so worth it today because wow is that comet beautiful! C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) I was at Sunset Crater by 4AM. It was an easy naked-eye object, but really rewarding through binoculars. Last pic is closest to naked eye scale.#neowise pic.twitter.com/1I0Cx2fZQJ— Jeremy Perez (@jperez1690) July 5, 2020
I managed to capture Comet NEOWISE this morning before dawn, from Walmer, UK. A lovely sight in binoculars too. This is a stack of 13 images. pic.twitter.com/zMKxxOfVKg— Paul Sutherland (@suthers) July 6, 2020
Meanwhile, Dr. Sebastian Voltmer captured the comet surrounded by rare noctilucent clouds over Spicheren, France, in what was described as a "once-in-a-lifetime" shot.
It is set to make its nearest approach to Earth on July 23 at a distance of 0.69 AU or 103 million km (64 million miles).
Image credit: Sebastian Voltmer/spaceweathergallery.com
NEOWISE over noctilucent clouds, taken at Great Falls Montana, U.S., on July 6. Image credit: Anthony Aretz/spaceweathergallery.com
Taken at Keller, Washington, on July 6. Image credit: Rocky Raybell/spaceweathergallery.com
The best time and place to observe the comet now is about 10º above the northeastern horizon before dawn. Better viewing prospects are expected around July 16 during evening dusk.
NEOWISE is located in the constellation of Taurus, and will soon enter Gemini, then visit Auriga, Lynx, and Ursa Major.
Its return to our solar system is expected in around 6 800 years.
Where will Comet #NEOWISE be in the (late!) evening sky during July? This easy to use chart will show you - basically just look for the Big Dipper/Plough and "star hop" to the comet from there. Hopefully naked eye bright but have binocs ready in case it isn't. :-) Chart 1 of 2 pic.twitter.com/rgYlWe0V9j— mars_stu (@mars_stu) July 3, 2020
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) taken by Da Ko in Mexico on the 4th. pic.twitter.com/d0MJNLvTEA— Con Stoitsis (@vivstoitsis) July 5, 2020
Conditions météorologiques plus délicates ce matin dans les Cévennes (cirrus et brouillard), mais la comète NEOWISE était bien visible à l’œil nu, naturellement un peu moins brillante que sur cette image prise avec un téléobjectif de 135 mm@2 (pose de 5 sec à 640 ISO). pic.twitter.com/y4XvQ3cdhs— Guillaume Cannat (@GuillaumeCannat) July 6, 2020
Featured image credit: Sebastian Voltmer/spaceweathergallery.com