Comet Neowise visible just after sunset

30 July 2020 | Africa

ELVIRA HATTINGH

WINDHOEK



Comet Neowise (C/2020 F3) is now visible in the southern hemisphere just after sunset.

The Astronomy Society of Southern Africa said it has received several reports of comet sightings in South Africa. “It is visible about an hour and a half after sunset, very low on the north-western horizon,” the association said on its Facebook page.

“The comet is not visible with the naked eye because it appears too close to the horizon and has a brightness grade of only +4. That makes it a difficult target. “It is visible through telescopes and binoculars, however. The waxing moon will make it gradually harder to spot, particularly around full moon on 3 August,” it said.

The comet has been visible in southern Africa since 25 July and may be seen until 5 August, the organisation said. The Southern Cape Astronomy Club has published photographs of the comet taken at Walker Bay and in Johannesburg.

The comet reached its closest point to Earth - at a distance of 103 million kilometres - on 23 July.

It is the brightest comet since Hale-Bopp in 1995 and 1996.

Neowise, which was discovered in March and is about five kilometres in diameter, will only return in about 6 800 years.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa), it is now 111 million kilometres from Earth and moving at a speed of 231 000 km/h.

Nasa's astronomical photo of the day on 22 July was of Neowise, and showed its two tails.