This July, Earth is getting a visit from an old friend, well sort of. The comet Neowise is passing through our solar system on a journey it won’t make again for another 6,800 years, experts say.
“Neowise is a long period comet,” said Mike Brake, a representative for the Oklahoma City Astronomical Club. “Neowise is special because it is fairly bright.”
As the comet moves through our solar system, observers from around the world have been able to watch its journey past the sun.
“After it swung around behind the sun, on July 3, it was shining in the early morning sky at a brightness that made it visible to the naked eye under dark skies,” Brake said. “Now it is becoming an evening object as it moves outward from the sun.”
“For the next few weeks, it will be in the northwestern sky at dusk, roughly beneath the Big Dipper,” he added.
Brake says Neowise will be closest to the Earth on July 23, but don’t worry NASA says the comet will pass Earth at a distance of roughly 64 million miles away.
“Unfortunately, it will continue to dim as it moves away from the sun so unless you are under very dark skies you will probably need binoculars or a small telescope during Neowise’s outward journey,” he shared.
Brake encourages families to explore the night skies saying that this is a “wonderful time to be looking up.”
“Venus is the bright planet in the east at sunrise. Jupiter is high and bright in the southeast at sunset. Saturn is just behind Jupiter in the planet parade and later Mars is rising behind them, headed for its opposition this fall when it will be quite bright.”
Looking ahead, Brake says that this December Jupiter and Saturn will be so close together they will be visible in one telescopic view!
“During the COVID pandemic, lots of families are looking for things to do at home. Scanning the night sky with a decent pair of binoculars or a small telescope is a safe and fun family activity,” he shared. “You can get a 4 to 6 inch reflector telescope for just a few hundred dollars.”
Lucky for metro families, one of the largest telescope retailers, Astronomics, is based right here in metro in Norman. Their helpful how-tos are perfect for families just getting started.