A new comet spotted by the NEOWISE telescope earlier this year has raised the hopes of astronomers who have been disappointed by two comets that have already fizzled out this year, according to Space.com.
Called Comet NEOWISE and cataloged as C/2020 F3, it was located 194 million miles (312 million kilometers) from the sun on March 27.
Unlike comets ATLAS and SWAN, which both fell apart after approaching the sun, NEOWISE survived the journey, displaying a perfectly circular and well-condensed head throughout.
Astrophotographer Chris Schur told Space.com that "the comet continues to be stunning, rising tail first over the plateau, some 20 miles distant."
"I was able to easily see it [with my] naked eye with about a degree of tail visually. Gorgeous yellow color in the scope," added Schur.
Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise image taken with 300mm lens, f/5.6, Nikon Z6, 0,4s, ISO 1600 from Wolfurt / Austria. The comet was clearly visible with the unaided eye, it was beautiful in the 10x50 binoculars. #comet #neowise pic.twitter.com/hBGeJZKtie— Philipp Salzgeber (@astro_graph) July 5, 2020
NEOWISE was originally expected to not get much brighter than 9th or 10th magnitude, which would have only been visible to those with telescopes or good binoculars, but observers in the Southern Hemisphere began following the rapid brightening of the comet as it came closer to the sun and Earth in the spring.
Amateur astronomers began to sight the comet before sunrise on July 1, according to Space.com. Some astronomers placed the comet's brightness near magnitude +1, similar to some of the brightest stars in the night sky.
While a number of "common" comets are visible through good binoculars or telescopes every night, "great" comets, visible with the naked eye, are "once-in-a-lifetime" events, with most people being able to see at most four in their entire lives.
During the next revolution I tried to capture the C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) comet a bit closer, the brightest one over the last 7 years. Its tail is quite clearly visible from the @Space_Station!#ISS #comet #NEOWISE pic.twitter.com/FnWkCummD6— Ivan Vagner (@ivan_mks63) July 4, 2020
The last "great" comet was Hale-Bopp in 1997. NEOWISE is currently estimated to fall just short of becoming a "great" comet, but should become very visible as it becomes evident in darker skies.
The comet should be visible in the morning sky as early as July 5 or 6, very low above the northeast horizon. Over the next 10 days, it will slide back down toward the north-northeast horizon and disappear from dawn visibility.
According to The Sky Live, as of Monday, NEOWISE will be visible to the naked eye in Israel at about 4:08 a.m., one hour and 30 minutes before sunrise. The time will change as the comet moves.
Around July 12, the comet will start being visible in the evening, low in the northwest sky, giving a much better view of the object. The comet will rapidly climb higher in the sky in the following evenings.
According to EarthSky, the comet can be spotted by facing east, looking at Venus (the third-brightest object in the sky besides for the moon and sun) and then looking to the left of Venus to the bright star Capella. The comet will be below Capella on the morning of June 6 and move towards the north (to the left) with respect to Capella on July 7 and 8.
NEOWISE will make its closest approach to Earth on July 22 at a distance of 64 million miles (103 million kilometers). By July 25, it should pass just to the north of the fine-star cluster of Coma Berenices.