How to see Comet Neowise as it stays visible above the UK this week

Astronomy fans may want to carve out some time in their evenings this week to try and spot the comet Neowise.

The huge lump of ice and rock is currently streaking through space many millions of miles away from us. But it’s so bright you’ll be able to spot it with the naked eye from anywhere across the UK.

The comet – officially called C/2020 F3 – first appeared faintly in the sky towards the end of March. But you’ll be able to see it well over the course of this week when it will be visible in the morning and evening.

You’ve got plenty of time too – it doesn’t make its closest approach to Earth until July 23. When it does, it’ll pass Earth at a distance of 103 million km – about 400 times further away than the moon.

Unfortunately, a brief caveat is that it won’t ever climb very high in the sky so it may be obscured by trees and buildings depending on your vantage point.

How to see Comet Neowise in the UK

Comet Neowise is currently moving slowly westwards through the constellation of Auriga low in the sky. You can find it by looking just to the lower left of the bright star Capella.

A good idea may be to download a night sky AR app such as SkyView (which has a free version) on your phone to help you locate the right constellation.

By mid-July, comet Neowise will have moved through to the constellation of Lynx and then onwards into Ursa Major – the Great Bear – on July 17.

Given we’re in the middle of summer, you’ll also have to contend with a light sky in the mornings and the evenings which could also make it harder to spot the comet.

What is Comet Neowise?

To be clear, comets are different from asteroids and meteors.

Asteroids tend to be made of metal or rock and follow long orbits which makes it easy for us to track the really big monsters.

Comets, on the other hand, are made of ice, gas and rock and often likened to ‘dirty snowballs’. Some scientists now believe a comet killed the dinosaurs, rather than an asteroid.

‘Comets are essentially asteroids that are heavy on the ice,’ a Nasa expert said during an episode of its On A Mission podcast published earlier in December.

‘They’re icy because they come from beyond the “snow line” of our solar system, out where the ice giant planets Neptune and Uranus orbit, where Pluto and his brethren dwell in the dark.

‘The light from our Sun barely graces the comet’s realm. But sometimes comets get a passport to a more tropical climate, to the warm inner solar system enjoyed by Earth, Mars, Venus and Mercury. As the comet nears the Sun, its ice turns to a gas and streams off as water vapour, creating a glowing coma and a spectacular tail.’

So if you’re having trouble spotting Comet Neowise in the sky, keep an eye out for the tail streaking out behind it – that’s millions of miles of ice and vapour trailing out behind it.

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