Comet NEOWISE Lights Up Michigan's Sky

Jul 14, 2020

Comet NEOWISE as seen near Kalamazoo
Credit Richard Bell / Kalamazoo Astronomical Society

There's a new comet in the evening sky. It's called Comet NEOWISE and the spectacle can be seen after sunset near the northwest horizon under the "Big Dipper."


Richard Bell is the president of the Kalamazoo Astronomical Society.

"This is the brightest comet we've had since Hale-Bopp in 1997. On average, we get one of these a decade, so when these things do come along, you really have to get out and enjoy it. It's not something you can plan long in advance on your calendar. When they come, you have to go out and look, otherwise you miss out."

If you do miss it, you'll have to wait a very long time - 6,800 years - for its return.


 

The comet is named for the space probe that discovered it in late March 2020. But Bell says it isn't too hard to see with your own eyes, if skies are clear and there aren't trees or buildings in the way.

"If it's nice and clear, you should be able to see the comet with no optical aid whatsoever, with just your eyes alone."

And Bell says it will be pretty easy to recognize once you do find it.

"It'll have a really bright, star-like nucleus, a really bright point like a star with this haze around it, with a long tail going up away from the sun.

Bell says the comet will continue to rise higher in the evening sky and should be visible for several weeks.

Online resources for photos and more information about Comet NEOWISE include Sky & Telescope magazine and Space Weather.