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What's up July 19-25

Saturn and Jupiter shine and catch Comet NEOWISE before it leaves for a few thousand years.

Posted Updated
Comet NEOWISE from Staunton River State Park, Virginia (Photo courtesy: Luther Matthews Jr.)
By
Tony Rice
, NASA Ambassador
Comet NEOWISE from Staunton River State Park, Virginia (Photo courtesy: Luther Matthews Jr.)

Comet NEOWISE

This is your last chance to see Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). Look low on the northwestern horizon beginning about and hour and fifteen minutes after sunset. The comet will faintly appear between the big dipper and the horizon.

Darker skies are important as the comet continues to dim. If you can't see the big dipper, you wont be able to see the comet. As the week continues the comet will appear higher and higher in the evening sky making it easier to see above the treeline, but is also expected to dim more.

The National Weather Service is predicting a pretty consistent pattern of cloud cover with some breaks that will hopefully line up with the northwestern horizon when the comet is visible.

Twin tails are visible extending from Comet NEOWISE.  The longer, white tail is dust and water or carbon dioxide ejected from the comet as energy from the Sun heats its surface.  The shorter, blue tail is charged particles swept from the coma surrounding the comet by the solar wind. (Photo courtesy: Luther Matthews Jr.)

Other sights this week

Jupiter and Saturn continue to shine brightly this week. The pair rise after sunset and are visible until sunrise. Mars rises shortly before midnight, Venus around 3:15. Both are visible until about 45 minutes before sunrise.

The Sun will be above the horizon about 11 minutes less by the end of the week.

The International Space Station's orbit doesn't bring it over central North Carolina at times that would make it very visible. The best pass will be Sunday night beginning at 9:15 pm from the west northwest where it will move to the north northeast above the trees.

Sunday

  • Happy 73rd birthday to astrophysicist Brian May. He was played guitar in a little British band called Queen.
  • Comet NEOWISE appears 17 degrees above the northwestern horizon around 9:45 pm, sets about 2.5 hours later.

Monday

  • The Moon reaches new phase at 7:32 am while Saturn also reaches opposition, when it is exactly opposite the Sun in our sky. This creates a Saturn-Earth-Moon-Sun lineup.
Planets are at their closest and brightest at opposition. Look for Saturn and Jupiter rising in the southeast after sunset.
  • Comet NEOWISE appears 19 degrees above the northwestern horizon around 9:45 pm, sets shortly before 12:30 am. High clouds could make seeing the challenging.
  • 51st anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing.
  • Tuesday

    • Comet NEOWISE appears 21 degrees above the northwestern horizon around 9:45 pm, sets at 12:35 am. High clouds are again expected to move in around sunset.

    Wednesday

    • Comet NEOWISE appears 24 degrees above the northwestern horizon around 9:45 pm, sets just before 12:40 am. Some breaks in the clouds are expected.

    Thursday

    • Mercury reaches its greatest separation from the Sun, a good time to look. It rises just before 5 am and is visible until just before sunrise. It will be increasingly brighter through the next two weeks before its orbit brings it too close to the Sun in our skies to be visible.
    • Comet Hale-Bopp was discovered 25 years ago today
    • Comet NEOWISE is at it's closest to Earth, appearing 25 degrees above the northwestern horizon around 9:45 pm, sets just before 12:43 am.

    Friday

    • Comet NEOWISE appears 27 degrees above the northwestern horizon around 9:41 pm, sets at 12:45

    Saturday

    • The nearly first quarter moon reaches perigee, or the closest point in its orbit to Earth
    • Comet NEOWISE appears 29 degrees above the northwestern horizon around 9:40 pm, sets just before midnight

     Credits 

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