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Spot rare comet 'Neowise' in West Michigan this July

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-08 18:36:07-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Now that the fireworks are over, there's something else you're going to want to try to spot in the skies above West Michigan.

A comet dubbed 'Neowise', first discovered in March, is traveling closer to the earth and can be seen with the naked eye.

"It hasn’t been to our neighborhood of the solar system for well over 4000 years," explained Michelle Nichols, Director of Public Observing at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago. "So it got closer to the sun, and it got brighter and brighter, and lo and behold, people have been taking some amazing pictures of it, and so few people have spotted it... so this is a very good comet.”

Right now the comet is appearing around sunrise, but Nichols said that will change next week.

“Starting on July 13th, it’s going to transition more to be an early evening object. So it will be visible really low in the northwestern horizon on July 13th, but every night after that, toward July 23rd or so, it’s going to be higher and higher in the sky. It’s going to pass a little bit below the 'Big Dipper'. So if people can see the Big Dipper, they might see a faint fuzzy kind of below it, so that’s something to try."

"If you can’t see it with the naked eye, one thing you can try is, don’t look directly at it," Nichols advised. "That’s called using 'averted vision', and that’s just because parts of your eye are more sensitive than other parts, so that might help. And then always, try a pair of binoculars."

Right now the comet is traveling about 90 million miles away from Earth. On July 23rd, it will reach it’s closest point to Earth with will be around 60 million miles away. It's expected to harmlessly pass by, and eventually disappear into its own orbit in August.

"The gravity of the sun is changing the comet’s orbit, so it’s going to be even longer before this one comes back, so 6,800 years before we get a chance to see this one," Nichols told FOX 17 News. "The last time I saw a bright comet was about 23 years ago, so these don’t come around all that often. So yeah, it’s definitely a chance to get out there, because at least for this comet, this is your one and only chance to see it."