Don’t Wait, You Need To See Comet NEOWISE Right Now

By now you’ve heard of NEOWISE, the most spectacular comet to visit our little corner of the galaxy since Hale-Bopp passed through over 20 years ago. But we’re willing to bet you haven’t actually seen it with your own eyes. That’s because up until now, the only way to view this interstellar traveler was to wake up in the pre-dawn hours; an especially difficult requirement considering a large chunk of the population has gotten used to sleeping-in over the last few months.

But things are about to change as NEOWISE begins a new phase of its trip through our celestial neck of the woods. Having come to within 44.5 million km (27.7 million miles) of the sun on July 3rd, the comet is now making its way back out of our solar system. Thanks to the complex dance of the heavens, that means that observers in the Northern Hemisphere will now be able to see NEOWISE in the evening sky just above the horizon.

NEOWISE is on a kind of “up and over” trajectory compared to the orbital paths of the planets. Get a better feel for it with JPL’s interactive solar dynamics tool.

While NEOWISE might be beating a hasty retreat from Sol right now, the comet it actually getting closer to us in the process. On July 22nd it will reach perigee, that is, the point in its orbit closest to Earth. On that evening the comet will be approximately 103 million km (64 million miles) away. Not exactly a stone’s throw, but pretty close in astronomical terms. The comet will appear to be getting higher in the sky as it approaches Earth, and should be visible with the naked eye between 10 and 20 degrees above the northern horizon.

Most estimates say that NEOWISE should remain visible until at least the middle of August, though it will be dimming rapidly. After that, you’re going to have to wait awhile for a repeat showing. Given the orbit of this particular comet, it won’t come around our way again for approximately 6,800 years, give or take a few lifetimes.

NASA will be hosting a NEOWISE live stream tomorrow afternoon where researchers will answer questions about this once in a lifetime celestial event, though we think you’ll get a lot more out of it if you just go outside and look up.

74 thoughts on “Don’t Wait, You Need To See Comet NEOWISE Right Now

      1. Have not seen a single star for years? Better go out and open your eyes. There is light pollution, yes, but you can definitely see stars. I assume you are in a big city. Go to a rooftop and look up around 10 pm. You will see stars!

          1. definitely saw it in London. look North. doesn’t take much effort to find. best with binoculars.
            also there are enough stars visible in London. in lockdown especially.

  1. This is so exciting! I missed the last ride out of here with the ship following Hale-Bopp. Who’s throwing the graduation party for the NEOWISE trip? I got the applesauce and pudding!

  2. I think the most frustrating part of viewing Neowise is everywhere it is telling us to view it yet they don’t give a more precise detail of when and where to watch. Evening, great. Is 8PM kind of evening or 11PM kind of evening? Where in the sky? Is right above horizon means I need to be on a boat in the middle of the ocean or just standing on the sidewalk? What direction? How high does the comet go? Yes, a lot of those question depends on where we are but this is precisely the point. Give us more details so we can figure it out.

          1. If I could butt in – it’s between the Big Dipper and the horizon. Closer to the horizon. Northwest sky. For now, where I live, I need binoculars. It’s supposed to rise closer to the Big Dipper and get brighter over the next week.

          2. On Friday, July 10th, I had to head out to Craig, CO for work. It was 3:45 in the morning and as I was driving east through the Debeque Canyon I could see a faint reddish orange trail pointing up in the sky. It was about 35 to 40 degrees north of Venus and about 15 degrees above the horizon in the east/northeast sky. I could see it with the naked eye through the windshield, so, not bad. So based on that, I will look for that same reddish orange trail in the western/northwestern skies in the evening. I hope this helps, but it was faint, so look sharp!

      enter your lat and longitude and it’ll draw you a picture. It also provides a ton of other useful astronomy graphs, like exactly where to see the ISS, the X37, and iridium flares if there are any still up there.

      1. This site was especially helpful. Looks like in my area (near Salt Lake City, Utah), as the sun sets and the big dipper comes out, it will be below the big dipper as follows: Draw a line from the upper tip (of the “handle”) of the big dipper, and down to the far bottom corner of the “cup”. Note the length of that line. Continue along that line that far again (i.e., the size of the big dipper), and the comet will be just slightly to the right of that line at that point. Draw another line from that same tip to the upper-right/nearest corner of the “cup”, and extend that down just as far. It will go even closer to the comet to the right. It will be between those two lines. Looks like it will be visible from when the sky gets dark enough (10pm-ish) to when the comet dips below the horizon (1am-ish, but earlier if you have hills and stuff in your way).

    2. 10 to 20 degrees sounds low, but actually is not too bad. If you stand on a hill, you should be able to see it no problem. However you have to wait until it is reasonable dark. My 1st attempt was 2 hours before sun rise and it was too bright. I have seen it at around 11:30 BST. Best way is to find a bright star capella in the north sky and then follow your eys to the right. To the visible eye, it is a faint smudge, so binocs are useful, but a resaonable camera with about 2 sec exposure can easily capture it

    3. Find a place with unobstructed view to N, 10pm, NNW, 2 fists with stretched arms above horizon.

      My old eyes needed binoculars to see it, but it seems easy to spot for younger people.

      Nitpicking on the article: It was already visible in the evening two nights ago.

  3. It’s moving pretty quickly, so guidelines for any one night aren’t going to be particularly useful the following night. I’d recommend downloading Stellarium and then using it to get the tracking data for the comet itself.

    Last night at (local summer time) midnight it was near the horizon, equidistant from Dubhe and Polaris. It’s moved left since then.

    Tonight it’s in the middle of the constellation Lynx (which isn’t useful instructions, because it’s a hard constellation to see), just in front of Ursa Major’s face and paws (almost an equilateral triangle with Talitha and Muscida).

    Hope it helps…

  4. And this is also the first comet to be discovered by a sat. NEOWISE actually refers to the telescope it wears, but the actual operators down here can take credit, but they are letting the bird do all the field work here.

  5. Saw it tonight, and it wasn’t even that hard. I found a dark location, relatively high up – a nearby dog park next to some soccer fields filled the bill. The Night Sky app on my phone showed me exactly where to look. While the comet was visible, barely, to the naked eye, binoculars were helpful for seeing the tail. Quite a sight!

  6. I saw it from LA at about 9:30pm today. Its about 5 -10 deg above horizon, just scan the horizon from west to north with binoculars. Can’t miss it. Its below the two lower stars of the big dipper.

  7. Caldwell, Idaho – from approximately 11:00 – 11:45 pm, 7/14/22, Neowise was very visible to the naked eye, awesome looking with binoculars in the NNW sky. Hold your arm out in front of you with your index finger straight up with base of finger on the horizon. Neowise was about a knuckle above tip of your finger (works for all heights, the longer your arm, the longer you finger). Another good reference point, draw a line from the bottom two stars of the big dipper’s cup, down to your right, Neowise is below that line and above the line drawn from the upper left star and lower right star of the cup on the big dipper down to the right. Good luck!

  8. When is the best time to see it. I know where to look but I haven’t found it. I live in Idaho (Mountain Time Zone). I’ve been out the last two nights at around 12:30 and again at 4:00. It’s been crystal clear and I had an excellent view of the stars, planets, and the Milky Way, but no comet. Has it set by then?

  9. My daughter and I went out around 4 am central on Saturday and saw it. We also went out on Sunday night around 10 pm central. We live in Northern Illinois, probably a little further south than Idaho. Morning view was better – higher in the sky, less atmosphere, plus lower humidity. Both times could be seen with the naked eye, but binoculars did help as others have said.

  10. This was my experience spotting Comet Neowise last night, July 14th, from Saguaro National Park in southern Arizona. Let me say first that it is not really that easy to see. You must be prepared, and persist if you want to be successful, and I’m pretty familiar with looking at the night sky.

    WHERE: right now it is in the west, north-west sky low on the horizon about one hour after sunset in your area. You can use the two bottom stars of the Big Dipper as rough pointer stars, and follow them down to the horizon. It is traversing out of the constellation Auriga and into Lynx. By the time it becomes visible it will be about 10 degrees above a clear view of the horizon. We have a window now from July 14 to about the 26th, as it gets higher, but expectedly dimmer.

    HOW: You will need to travel away from city light pollution, even if that takes a half an hour or an hour of travel. Luckily the moon is playing nicely, because it was dimming the comet’s visibility last week. Consult maps for roads to take and how they line up with mountains that would block the horizon to the west.

    More Stuff: Bring binoculars and a digital camera and tripod. The camera will be way more helpful in finding the comet first, and you can use any normal to moderate telephoto lens. No a cell phone camera most likely will not cut it. Once you get to your chosen location, set up and relax for the next few hours because it will take at least one hour for it to get dark enough. Shoot images periodically and enlarge them on your camera screen and peruse the image until you spot a star-like thing with a tail. Otherwise use your binoculars and scan slowly, real slowly.

    Even More Stuff: Before you go, get a few astronomy / planetarium apps on your phone, and get a bit familiar with them. They will assist greatly when you arrive and you won’t see any stars. But the software will tell you exactly where all the stars will be, and also where the comet will or should be on the given date and time.

    Good luck and stay safe. It will be well worth the outing!

  11. I’m honestly not interested in seeing it.
    I’ll see it in better detail, from more angles and be able to appreciate it more seeing it it in photos with zoom and taken by someone with skill. Plus it’s winter here, so it’s cold and I don’t like going outside at night.

      1. In person, it’s a faint mark moving across the sky that I may or may not get to see due to light pollution, clouds and dozens of other things. I saw Halley’s Comet as a kid and it didn’t impress me then.
        There is nothing for me to make with it, nothing for me to use it in any way, it’s simply not something that interests me.
        I’m the kind who’ll build a rocket engine because it’s fun.. I have no interest in how well it launches, playing with, learning how everything fits together is fun, so long as it lights and produces thrust, I’m happy.
        I’m a Ham(Advanced).. I fix gear, I build antennas, I love to learn.. I have zero interest in seeing how far I can talk with it.
        Not everyone is interested in everything. Don’t mistake lack of interest in one subject with lack of interest in other aspects.

      2. “this is one of the saddest things I’ve ever read on the internet.”

        For me, it was the movie reviews on how lousy was “The Hitchhikers Guide to Galaxy”. (2005)
        And last week, I finally watched the movie…
        Those movie reviews were way too kind…

        1. Well if you can ignore Mos Def playing Tuvok instead of Ford Prefect, Marvin looking like he was made by Apple, and the stupid way they handled Zaphods two heads, there’s still a bit of Adams’ humour left.

  12. A comet with two tails…where I seen this before..perhaps in a dream, in a city I don’t remember, living as another person whose name I forgot…I think the town was called itomori…the name…mitsuha..

    there was something I needed to do, for somone, someone I can never forget…

  13. I was lucky enough to see it, in the Netherlands two days ago, in the evening. When the sun is down and it’s light has faded, the first few stars became visible. When the big dipper was recognizable (at about 23:30 here), it was there below the big Dipper just above the trees. Actually it appears as one of the brightest stars, with its tail as a small “smudge”. I was able to make a decent photo with my phone (pixel 3a) on night view.
    However, since then it has been too cloudy to see it again. Didn’t catch the ride on the alien ship for now.

    1. Just wanted to ‘like’ Stargazer’s answer as it’s the best instructions for finding the comet regardless of your location and time offsets. Rephrasing it to emphasize the high points:
      – Wait until it’s dark enough to see enough stars in the big dipper to recognize it’s a ‘dipper’.
      – Look about halfway between the bottom of the dipper and horizon (Sky and Telescope referred to it’s position as “tickling the toes of the great bear”).
      – the comet looks like a smudge – a bit of fuzz that doesn’t quite focus to a pinpoint light like a normal star.
      – With binoculars, the tail pops out
      – From the time it’s first visible by eye until it sets, is only about a half hour.

      If you hold up any camera, no zoom needed, your camera should show the tail better than your eye and might be the fastest way to find it. If you can do a 2 sec exposure, that’s ideal. Any exposure greater than 3-4 seconds, starts to show star ‘trails’, where the movement of the earth makes the stars and comets looks like tiny lines instead of dots.
      If you try to take a photo, get something in the photo for perspective like a tree or building. A clear photo of the comet by itself on dark background is kind of meh.

  14. Went out tonight to give the dogs one more walk before bed. There was this comet. I went in to get my binoculars and my wife so she could see. I went back in for her binoculars. This is one of six comets showing up in the astronomy app on my phone.

  15. About the photo at the top of the page – Currently the comet’s tail is pointed up and to the right. The photo is probably from earlier before it looped around the sun.

  16. Hmm. How long has it actually been visible?

    My natural eye view is exactly in this direction when I yawn and turn over in bed and I have seen this really bright “star” for a few months wondering why it has suddenly appeared.

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