Comet NEOWISE visible in evening

By Connor Ciecko

Every so often, a celestial event captures the attention of the masses. Things like the total solar eclipse in 2017 to Halley’s Comet in 1986 garnered huge attention because of their accessibility to the average person; they didn’t need fancy scientific tools to see. Some things pop into existence only to never be seen again by the eyes of our generation, like the comet Hale-Bopp in 1995. That one won’t be back for another 2000 years or so.

Right now, streaking across the sky is a newly discovered comet lovingly called C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). Space stuff gets less fun names when it’s a machine that discovers them. Despite the name, you can see it for yourself if you know where to look, and all you need is a sharp eye and maybe a pair of binoculars.

At around 9 p.m. on a clear night, head outside and look to the Northwest. Just above the horizon and not too far below the Big Dipper, you might just catch a glimpse of the little guy. It may not look like a whole lot, you’re looking for what looks like a baseball being thrown through cheesecloth, but that little dot is about three miles wide and 70 million miles away.

It’ll be around for the next couple weeks or so as it continues on its orbit around the sun, so you should take the opportunity to go outside and see if you can find it. The next time it’ll come say hello is in 8687 or so.

Take a moment out of your day to stop, look up and take a breath. The universe is full of so much beauty you don’t want to miss.


Photo by NASA