Early-birds rejoice! A comet will continue to streak across the sky after bringing a beautiful sight for many across the country the past couple of mornings. You have a chance to see it too if the weather cooperates!
What is it?
It’s a visitor from deep space. A chunk of rock, ice, and dust has made its way towards the sun and as a result has started to let off some steam. Literally. Its spewing gas and dust as the sun warms the comet on its closest approach to our star in its orbit.
Why the weird name?
Comet C/2020 or NEOWISE gets its name from the NASA mission that discovered it back at the end of March. The Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Explorer, or NEOWISE, scans the night sky to find distant asteroids and comets- paying close attention to ones that may potentially threaten us.
Threaten? Should I be nervous?
Absolutely not! This comet is many millions of miles away from us and is no threat and likely not an omen of things to come. But it is 2020, so what else can go wrong?
When and where should I look?
See above for a list of the times you’ll want to head outside and look low in the sky, near the horizon. You’re looking for a dim, unblinking point of light with a fuzzy, dusty trail that extends up and to the left of the dot. I’d recommend getting away from sources of light pollution, trees or buildings that block your view of the horizon, and grabbing a pair of binoculars to help you see it.
Is it like a shooting star?
Shooting stars are a lot more common & are visible for less than a second. Comet sightings are more rare (but not uncommon) and are viewable for days on end. The main reasons for this are the size and trajectory of these objects. Meteorites (shooting stars) are often quite small and burn up as they fall into our atmosphere. The comets we can see are much larger, this one is nearly 3 miles across, with their paths thankfully millions of miles away from Earth.