An extremely rare celestial event is taking place right now above the skies of Long Island, and if you pick the right spot at the right time, there’s a chance you may be able to see it before it disappears.
Comet C/2020 F3 — better known as Comet Neowise, known as a periodic comet — is flying by the Earth at a distance of about 64 million miles at a speed of around 40 miles per second, according to NASA. However, despite those stats, you can still get a look at it, and now is the time to try. Once it’s gone, NASA states Neowise won’t return for another 6,800 years.
The space agency is also giving advice to those of us who live in the Northern Hemisphere (Long Island included) on how to see the comet. As of July 16, it’s been visible with binoculars — and possibly the naked eye — at night where skies are at their darkest. It becomes visible about one to two hours after sunset, according to AccuWeather.
The comet is expected to make its closest approach to Earth on Wednesday before it begins moving father away in the solar system. Look to the northwest, low on the horizon, first spotting the Big Dipper. Scan your eyes down just a bit and to the left of that point to try to spot Neowise.
You’ll need to let your eyes adjust to the dark for about 15 minutes or so, and if the weather is right and you’re lucky enough, you might get a great view. If you're looking toward the night sky without binoculars or a telescope, the comet may look like a "fuzzy star with a bit of a tail," according to NASA.
Unfortunately, cellphone cameras are not likely to capture the comet, but Long Islanders with more professional cameras set properly have been filling social media with some excellent shots of the comet.
The comet has already been spotted by those searching for it at Great Patchogue Lake in Patchogue and Sunken Meadow State Park in Kings Park and off Ocean Parkway, according to social media posts.
Other places to try would be where skies are least impacted by light such as Montauk Point, over the North Fork, near Gilgo Beach and Poquott Harbor. Visibility of Comet Neowise is expected to significantly decrease by the last weekend in July.