How to Watch the NEOWISE Comet From Home

neowise comet

The NEOWISE comet is currently visible from Earth, if you’re lucky enough to be able to catch it. Of course, not everyone lives in optimal viewing locations, or the right hemisphere. But that doesn’t mean you have to miss out. You can take a look at the comet from the comfort of your own browser.

What is the NEOWISE comet?

The NEOWISE comet, also known as Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE, was discovered on March 27, 2020.  it’s named after the NASA mission that made the discovery — the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE).

NEOWISE isn’t anything to be worried about. In fact, it offers humans a rare chance to actually see a comet with the naked eye. NEOWISE is reportedly on a path around the sun that takes a casual 7,000 years. So get it in your eye holes when you still have the chance.

NEOWISE will be closest to the Earth around July 23, where it will be roughly 103 million kilometres away.

Naked-eye comets are incredibly rare. In fact, it will be one of the few this century. So this isn’t something you want to miss. And you don’t have to, especially if you want to utilise your web browser.

How to watch NEOWISE from your computer

According to The Sky Live, the NEOWISE comet is visible to the naked eye under dark skies in the Northern Hemisphere. However, if you live in a light polluted area you may need binoculars to see it. And if its not visible in your area at all, you might want to rely on technology.

You can have a cheeky look at the NEOWISE comet right now by using Stellarium. This is an planetarium that runs on your computer and supports Windows, Mac and Linus. There is also a web version and an app if you’d prefer.

Stellarium will ask for a location so you can view constellations and comets are visible in your area. But you can also change your location in order to see the night sky, and fun things appearing in it, in other parts of the world.

This includes the NEOWISE comet, but there’s just one caveat. Because it’s a relatively new discovery you’ll need to manually add it to Stellarium. Here’s how you do it:

  • Open Stellarium and hit F2 to go to Configuration
  • Select the Plug-Ins tab

  • Scroll down and select Solar Systems Editor

  • Hit Configure

  • Go to the Solar System tab

  • Hit Import orbital elements in MPC format

  • Select Comets

  • Select MPC’s list of observable comets from thee drop down menu

  • Hit Get orbital elements

  • Type c/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)

  • Hit Add objects

  • Exit out of the open menus

You can also view the instructions on this YouTube video. It also has some tips on how to make the text on the NEOWISe comet more visible in Stellarium.

From there, we recommend setting your location to somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere, like a U.S. city. According to space.com NEOWISE is currently visible right after sunset for around 80 minutes. You can use the time jump tools in Stellarium to fast forward or backwards to cop a glimpse of it.

How long is the NEOWISE comet visible?

NEOWISE will reportedly be best viewed between July 14 and 19 in the Northern hemisphere. However, it will still be visible through August, though by then you may need a small telescope.

Happy comet hunting!