First spotted in March on images shot by the NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope, the comet has grown in brightness to become visible to the naked eye. Comet NEOWISE passed its closest approach to the Sun on July 3 and last night, Thursday, July 23, it made its closest approach to Earth.
Amateur astrologers were urged to take advantage of the arrival of the newly-discovered visitor visible to the naked eye over the skies of the UK as Comet NEOWISE will not return to our neighbourhood for another 6,800 years.
I would encourage everyoe to take a look if they can
Dr Robert Massey
Dr Robert Massey, from the Royal Astrological Society, said Comet NEOWISE was last in the inner Solar System 4,500 years ago.
He said: “I would encourage everyone to take a look if they can, if they have clear skies, and get away from light pollution if they can.”
“NEOWISE, named after the NASA telescope used to first spot it, should be visible for the next few weeks in the northern skies, near the bright star Capella.
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“The tail was visible, and there was the added bonus of the noctilucent clouds.
“During the rest of July, Comet NEOWISE will head through Lynx and into Ursa Major, passing beneath the familiar asterism of seven bright stars known as the Big Dipper, or the Plough.
“This will keep it low in the sky before dawn, but it will increasingly be visible earlier in the night, in a darker sky.
“By the third week of July, the comet will be on view all night long and stargazers will be able to view it before going to bed, rather than having to get out of their warm beds before dawn.”
Amateur astronomers managed to take amazing images of the cosmic snowball, and shared their photos on social media.
One user wrote: “Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) from our back garden. See it again in 6,766 years. Photo taken by my son.”
Another added: “I captured these noctilucent Clouds with Comet NEOWISE in Romford, Essex, UK. They were truly mesmerising.”
And one user spotted the comet from Cornwall, writing: “The Heavens Over Godrevy Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) & The Plough seen from Cornwall, UK.”
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Fortunately, those who may have missed the comet last night still have a few days left to spot NEOWISE.
Some astronomers have complained the SpaceX Starlink satellite network obstructed views of the comet, with time-lapse images resulting in streaks across the sky.
There are currently more than 400 Starlink satellites orbiting the Earth as part of the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX plan to beam high-speed internet down to Earth.
The firm responsible for reusable rockets eventually hopes to create a constellation of 12,000 satellites in orbit around Earth, although SpaceX is already taking measures to make them less visible.
The Comet NEOWISE will continue to be visible over the coming days but will slowly become increasingly difficult to view.
Apps such as SkyPortal and SkySafari 6 will help budding astronomers locate it as it disappears from our skies.
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