There’s still time to see the 4.6 billion-year-old comet NEOWISE in the night sky over Canyon Lake.
The now-famous comet, which was only discovered in March and is visible to the naked eye, will be closest to earth July 22-23.
NEOWISE will shine brightly for a few days longer as its hurtles away from the sun and back into deep space, said New Braunfels Astronomy Club’s Eric Erickson, who hosted monthly star parties at Tye Preston Memorial Library (TPML) before the pandemic. It could be visible through mid-August.
To find NEOWISE, he suggests standing outside and facing northwest just after twilight. Look for the cup or bowl in the Big Dipper constellation. Just there, between the cup and treeline, shines the little smudge of light that’s enthralled stargazers since it was first spotted by the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) telescope, which searches for meteors that might hit earth.
Erickson said the long-period comet, which is three miles across and 64 million miles away, will get higher and higher in the sky before fading away from view over the next several weeks. It won’t be back for thousands of years.
In better times, the New Braunfels Astronomy Club might have shared NEOWISE with the public using the library’s Celestron Schmidt Cassegrain telescope. Erickson said TPML is one of the few libraries in the United States with an actual observatory.
Erickson said the New Braunfels club was founded in the mid-1990s by Larry Pratt. It now has 90 members, all amateur astronomers who are interested in the night skies and telescopes.
Membership is open to stargazers of all ages, and meets the third Thursday of every month except December.
The next Zoom meeting is scheduled from 7 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 20. To sign up, email Mhomer2012@yahoo.com or visit astronomynbtx.org.