This Week is Your Last Best Chance to See Comet NEOWISE

Wyoming meteorologist and astronomer Don Day said this week is prime-time viewing for the comet.

Annaliese Wiederspahn

July 20, 20203 min read

Day comet
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

If you haven’t seen Comet NEOWISE yet, don’t despair.

Wyoming meteorologist and amateur astronomer Don Day said this week is prime-time viewing for the comet.

Day said NEOWISE will have a magnitude of 3 this week which means you’ll be able to see it with the naked eye and with binoculars or a telescope, the view will be “fantastic.”

“It’s absolutely still worth it to go out and see it,” Day said.  “The tail is really, really long. It will look like a faint, white smudge.” 

Why should you be excited about a “faint, white smudge”?

Because it’s the most visible comet since Hale-Bopp and with binoculars or a telescope, that smudge will come alive.

Day said the best viewing time is about an hour after sundown through midnight. 

For best results, go outside where it’s dark and the skies are clear. 

The key here, Day said, is a spot where the light pollution is minimal.

Find the Big Dipper (look to your northwest).

Then, look straight down. It’s about 20 degrees above the horizon. The more your eyes get used to the environment, the more clear the comet will appear.

And if you have a pair of binoculars or an entry-level telescope, “you’ll be dazzled,” he said.

If you want to take a picture of it, Day recommends the purchase of a tripod and a digital camera.

“You can get some amazing pictures of it,” he said.  “Go with a high ISO and the exposure time should be between 5 to 25 seconds.”

He said purchasing a sky tracker — which synchronizes your camera with the rotation of the Earth — isn’t necessary but it will improve the shot.

Day’s photo (above) was taken Friday night about 10:30 p.m. near Keystone, Wyoming. He said the ISO was set at 4800 and the exposure time was 25 seconds.

“You’ll probably be disappointed with the naked eye, but you look at it with binoculars or telescope, watch out,” he said.

Day did say that the comet can probably be viewed through the end of August but this week will be the last, best time to see the comet.

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Annaliese Wiederspahn

State Political Reporter