A clear night sky is ideal for viewing the comet NEOWISE, which is visible with the naked eye above the northwest horizon. Photo courtesy, Ben Stewart

Comet is a treat for skywatchers

Big Dipper’s bottom two stars point to comet

A comet will continue its public appearance — visible with the naked eye, which is rare — near the northwest horizon over the coming week.

Alice Koning, community outreach co-ordinator at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre, said often astronomers can watch comets through their telescopes, but such magnification devices are not usually accessible to the general public.

She said the NEOWISE comet came from beyond Neptune, the eighth and last planet from the sun.

“You can kind of think of comets as leftovers from when the solar system formed, so one reason we like to study them is because they are like this pristine laboratory of the early solar system,” Koning said.

She said a couple of other comets predicted to be bright enough to see with the naked eye within the past year ended up breaking up or fizzling out. NEOWISE will start to dim after July 23 as it gets farther from the sun and Earth.

“It’s at the limit of what we would classically call a naked-eye object. It’s going to be a little bit of a tricky one. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see it on your first try.

“My recommendation would be to choose any evening between now and July 23 when it’s not cloudy — that’s going to be your main foe.”

The comet was discovered on March 27 on the Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, hence its name, NEOWISE.


Stars not aligned for astrologers during COVID-19, as horoscopes dish outdated advice

Apollo 11 and moon rocks: Some lost, some stolen, and others still waiting to be studied 50 years later

She said a clear view of the northwestern horizon and a dark sky are required, and binoculars make it a lot easier. The bottom two stars in the Big Dipper roughly point to the location of the comet.

“Travelling far out of town is nice, especially if you want to get those good pictures. But for the average person, find a place where you’re not standing directly under a street light. That will be enough for most people.”

She said comets are like dirty, icy snowballs that are several kilometres wide. Millions, or even billions, exist out past Neptune, and sometimes, they orbit into the inner solar system.

“It’s only when they come into the inner solar system, and close to the sun, that they start to get those famous tails. Comets are beautiful.”

And the debris comets leave behind can create another light show in the sky, Koning said.

“When Earth crosses over a past comet’s dirty leftovers, that’s where we get our meteor showers.”


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Kerry Wood Nature Centre

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

College expects lower enrolment but president remains optimistic

International travel restrictions will have big impact on foreign students

Alberta’s active COVID-19 cases continue to trend downwards

85 new cases Tuesday, active cases sit at 1,004

Overwhelming majority of Red Deer students could be back in classrooms this fall

Preliminary survey results show 94 per cent parental support

Some Red Deer County residents oppose a gravel pit proposed for a flood-prone area

Howell’s Excavation co-owner says the proposal meets or exceeds standards

Workers at Regina linen company contract COVID-19 but facility safe: officials

REGINA — Health officials say 18 employees at a linen facility in… Continue reading

Alberta reports 257 new cases of COVID-19

The Alberta government reported 257 new cases of COVID-19 in its latest… Continue reading

Cast your votes for Best of Red Deer

The Advocate’s Best of Red Deer Readers’ Choice Awards are back. Community… Continue reading

Vigil held in Maskwacis for 10-year-old boy

Samson Cree Nation comes together for comfort, console each other

Cuts to environmental monitoring budget In Alberta’s oilsands are viewed as reckless

The 2019-2020 budget saw $58 million dollars being dedicated to environmental monitoring

N.L. reports second COVID-19 case linked to out-of-province TV series worker

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A second person who works on the St.… Continue reading

World shares march higher as S&P 500 nears all-time record

World stock markets rallied on Tuesday after U.S. President Donald Trump said… Continue reading

Russia’s approval of virus vaccine greeted with some alarm

MOSCOW — Russia on Tuesday became the first country to approve a… Continue reading

Police tried to cuff young boy at Florida school

KEY WEST, Fla. — A civil rights lawyer plans to sue the… Continue reading

Most Read