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This Week is Your Last Best Chance to See Comet NEOWISE

in Don Day

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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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How to See Comet NEOWISE In Wyoming

in Don Day

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Some of the great things about living in Wyoming are the wide open spaces and the unobstructed vistas.

This is especially true when we have a comet viewable with the naked eye. And that time is now.

Comet NEOWISE is now making itself seen for us earthlings and here in Wyoming, that means we’re going to get a good show.

That good show has already made itself visible to the state’s early risers, like our friend Don Day, the meteorologist known as Wyoming’s weatherman.

Day doesn’t have superpowers that give him X-ray vision or anything. It’s just that he gets up at around 3:30 every morning.

So when Comet NEOWISE appears on the horizon an hour later, he gets the view.

For the next few days, the comet will be visible between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. the east-northeast portion of the sky.

Don’t want to get up that early? No problem. Just wait until Monday, when NEOWISE will become an evening comet.

“This is really turning into a good comet,” Day said from his office in the old airport tower in Cheyenne.  “We don’t get these very often when you can see them with your naked eye.”

Day said comet fans were worried about NEOWISE because the last two comets predicted to put on a show — Atlas and Swan — broke up as they made their journey around the sun before they could make a close pass of Earth.

Not so with this comet. It made the trip around the sun and is now “hurtling through space to give us some natural fireworks,” Day said.

“NEOWISE isn’t as bright as Hale-Bopp,” Day said, referring to the legendary comet visible from Earth in 1997. But he said it’s a good one.

“If you are an astrophotography buff, you should be able to get some spectacular photos because of our great horizons and topography,” he said.

To watch the comet in the evening starting on Monday, Day suggested looking to the northwest and low on the horizon right about sunset.

“Just look for the Big Dipper and go down from there,” Day said. “You won’t be disappointed.”

Day said great photographs of NEOWISE are available on SpaceWeather.com

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