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Comet NEOWISE may be visible in Acadiana evening skies over next week

Posted at 7:20 PM, Jul 14, 2020

Comet NEOWISE may become visible in Acadiana's evening skies over the next week.

In March, NASA's space telescope, Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) discovered a comet not previously cataloged.

And over the last month, NEOWISE has become visible in the predawn skies, primarily at higher latitudes than here in Southern Louisiana.

And over the next week or more, it should become visible to many around the world in the evening skies, and perhaps here in Acadiana, especially with the aid of binoculars and/or a telescope.

Initially the comet and it's bright dual tail, will be too low to see in our northwestern evening sky because of atmospheric haze and moisture...but as the comet gains altitude in the evenings ahead into the weekend, it may become visible locally, but will also be dependent on cloud cover and haze in the future.

The comet, made of ice and sooty dust articles left over from its formation around the birth of our solar system some 4.6 billion years ago, is roughly 3 miles across per NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

The comet's tail is a byproduct of the solar wind burning off the icy material from the comet head or rock.

The comet may be visible in the evenings low in our northwestern skies ahead per the graphic below, with visibility times progressively 5 minutes later each night.

But questions remain as to its visibility in our thick southern skies and whether the comet's tail does not diminish too much in the days ahead as it is now traveling away from the sun and heading back to the far reaches of our solar system.

The comet, or what's left of it after this run, will return in roughly 7,000 years.

For now, best viewing should be out in the open country away from city lights, with a flat nearly unobstructed view to the northwest...bring binoculars and the mosquito spray!

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