Photos: Comet Spotting

Jul 20, 2020 | Comet NEOWISE appears in the northwestern sky over Little Bitterroot Lake in Marion on July 15, 2020. NEOWISE has graced the northwestern sky throughout the month of July, appearing as a brilliant white streak against the stars, and it won’t return to the inner solar system for another 6,800 years. It’s the brightest comet to appear in the sky since Hale-Bopp in 1997. The comet’s name comes from NASA’s Near-Earth-Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), an infrared, space-based telescope designed to detect potentially dangerous asteroids and comets. NEOWISE was discovered with the telescope on March 27 of this year. The comet makes its closest approach to earth on July 23, and becomes visible about an hour or so after sunset, tucked under the Big Dipper. For the best viewing experience, pick a spot out of town away from artificial sources of light. While easy to spot with the naked eye, pack a pair of binoculars or small telescope to get a clear look at the forked tail of this 3-mile-wide ball of ice hurtling through the heavens.