The first naked-eye comet of 2020 has arrived — finally.
After two comets have already failed to meet naked-eye expectations this year, Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) made its closest approach to the Sun on Friday, July 3. It reached a distance of just 0.29 astronomical units (27 million miles or 43.4 million kilometers) from the Sun — a bit closer than Mercury’s average distance. (One astronomical unit, or AU, is the average Earth-Sun distance.)
Comet NEOWISE, which was discovered by NASA’s Near Earth Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE), is currently in the constellation Auriga. This means it will remain visible in the northeast to Northern Hemisphere observers over the next few days. It’s low on the horizon, though, and continuing to sink.
The comet’s show will take an intermission around July 11, as it ducks below the horizon. But it is expected to reemerge in the night sky around July 15 or 16. And as it gets higher in elevation, it should stand out more and become even easier to see — that is, if it doesn’t completely break apart by then. At that point, the comet will have moved away from Auriga and east into Lynx. Within another few days, it will pass through Ursa Major.
But in the meantime, keep checking back in to astronomy.com, as we’ll continue to update the image gallery below with the best shots of Comet NEOWISE we can get our hands on. Enjoy the show!