This article was last updated on April 16, 2022
You’ve still got time to get a look at the New Year’s comet that everyone’s talking about at brunch, but don’t wait much longer to fix your eyes on the sky. NASA is reporting that the comet, officially named C/2016 U1 NEOWISE, will be visible through January 14, giving you about a week to dust off your binoculars and scope out the perfect spot to catch a glimpse. Still not feeling it? This fact might just change your mind: The comet won’t be back for another 1,000 years.
Paul Chodas, the manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, told Travel + Leisure, there’s “a good chance of [the comet] becoming visible through a good pair of binoculars, although we can’t be sure because a comet’s brightness is notoriously unpredictable.”
What’s up with the comet’s weird name? NEOWISE is a project funded by NASA’s Planetary Science Division and more specifically, it uses a Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) to study asteroids and other solar system objects. So while C/2016 U1 NEOWISE might not be as memorable as, says, Halley’s Comet, the NEOWISE project has already found 34,000 new discoveries since 2009.
“At its brightest, comet C/2016 U1 NEOWISE will pass through the constellations Ophiuchus to Serpens Cauda and Sagittarius, and is best visible in the dawn sky 12 degrees from the [sun] at maximum brightness,” reports Universe Today.
If this rare astronomical sight has piqued your curiosity, focus on the southeastern sky (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere). The comet will appear as a faint object just above the horizon. Those living south of the equator will get one final chance to spot C/2016 U1 NEOWISE on the last day of the month. After that, it’s a long 1,000-year wait for a repeat performance.
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