Comet NEOWISE Won't Visit Earth Again Until Nearly 7,000 Years From Now

Try and catch a glimpse of Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE while you can because it won't be visible from Earth again for another 6,800 years.

The bright object, which has thrilled skywatchers in recent weeks, was discovered on March 27 this year by NASA's NEOWISE space telescope and made its closest approach to the sun on July 3.

It survived this close approach—unlike some comets which disintegrate as they pass the star—and is now moving toward the Earth. The object will fly closest to our planet on July 22, passing at a safe distance of 64 million miles, according to NASA.

The comet—the brightest to appear in Northern Hemisphere skies for decades—will then head toward the outer solar system in its very long, elliptical orbit around the sun. It won't return for another 6,800 years.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the comet should be easily visible in the evening, low in the northwestern sky, for the rest of July.

While it may be possible to see the comet with the naked eye where you are, astronomers recommend using binoculars or a small telescope to spot the object. If you manage to find it first with astronomical equipment, try looking in the same location to see if you can observe the comet unaided.

"It is always better to observe comets with optical aid, especially a pair of binoculars and to seek dark rural skies, away from light polluted cities," Michael Mattiazzo, an amateur astronomer who has discovered eight comets, previously told Newsweek.

To spot the comet, look below the Big Dipper constellation after sunset where you should be able to locate it, with the object appearing like a blurry star that has a long tail.

Comet NEOWISE
A photograph of Comet NEOWISE taken by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station on July 5, 2020. NASA

Comets are notoriously unstable objects made up of rock, ice and dust hence their nickname "dirty snowballs." However, Comet NEOWISE was sturdy enough to survive its close encounter with our star and astronomers think it should be visible for the rest of the month.

"It's quite rare for a comet to be bright enough that we can see it with the naked eye or even just with binoculars," Emily Kramer, a co-investigator of the NEOWISE satellite, said in a NASA Science Live webcast. "The last time we had a comet this bright was Hale-Bopp back in 1995-1996."

Over the course of late-July, the comet will climb higher in the northern skies, making it more easily visible, however, this effect will also be offset by the fading of the object. By the end of the month, it will likely become too faint to see with the naked eye and the comet will disappear from Earth's view, according to Mattiazzo.