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Here’s when you can see Comet NEOWISE from greater San Diego this week

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE will be visible in the night sky this week from San Diego County.
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE will be visible in the night sky this week from San Diego County.
(NASA)

Make sure to look from an area where there is little light pollution

A handsome comet that was discovered by the earth-orbiting NEOWISE space telescope in late March is now visible to the naked eye from San Diego County shortly after sunset.

“NEOWISE is now heading (roughly) our way and will pass closest to our planet on the evening of July 22, but the best viewing will be before that,” said David Brin of Olivenhain, a physicist and co-author of the book “The Heart of the Comet.”

“It is no longer visible as an early morning object, but now conveniently shimmers soon after sunset. It will start its two-week passage very near the sunset horizon, but off to the north-northwest, toward the Big Dipper. Of course it’s best to avoid haze, clouds and city lights. We’re lucky there’s no moon at that time.”

Brin added in an extended email Tuesday that skygazers should “look for the comet’s twin tails, both of them fleeing away from the sun. The straighter, bluish ion tail is made of gas electrified and swept by charged particles of the solar wind. The whitish and somewhat fluffy-curved dust tail is made of specks of solid matter torn from the comet’s surface by evaporating ice and then pushed by sunlight itself.

NASA's NEOWISE space telescope
(NASA)

“People for ages thought comets bore messages or warnings or curses. I prefer to think of them as banners, beckoning us onward and outward as a brashly, proudly scientific civilization.”

The National Weather Service says that sky gazers should position themselves about five miles inland from the coast due to the marine layer. The temperature just after sunset will be in the mid-to-upper 60s for the next few nights.

The NASA space telescope that discovered the comet was originally known as the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE), which carried out its primary mission from December 2009 to February 2011. NASA renamed the spacecraft NEOWISE in 2013 and assigned it to search for near-Earth asteroids and comets. NEOWISE is in low-Earth orbit, where it circles the planet every 95 minutes.


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