Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3)

Finally, a bright comet! Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE was discovered on March 27, 2020 by the NEOWISE space telescope. NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) is the current extended “warm” mission of WISE after its hydrogen coolant became depleted.

Currently visible in the morning twilight sky, Comet NEOWISE is already a naked-eye object and is spectacular in binoculars, low in the NE, below and a little to the left of the bright star Capella. Soon it will be moving into the evening sky, though it is expected to diminish in brightness somewhat as it gets further from the Sun. Here’s an ephemeris for Comet NEOWISE for July and August showing when it will be at least 10˚ above the horizon in a sky that is not brightened by either twilight or moonlight. Avoiding light pollution, however, is up to you. Enjoy!

Comet naming these days is a mess! For one, some of the acronyms used for the automated surveys that discover them are unattractive. Thank heavens neither of the two comets named ASASSN (C/2017 O1 and C/2018 N2) ever became as bright as our current comet!

There were three comets NEOWISE in 2014, three in 2015, three in 2016, one in 2017, two in 2018, two in 2019, and one (so far) in 2020.


C/2014 C3
P/2014 L2
C/2014 N3
P/2015 J3
C/2015 X8
C/2015 YG1
C/2016 B1
C/2016 C2
C/2016 U1
C/2017 C1
C/2018 EN4
C/2018 N1
C/2019 H1
C/2019 L2
C/2020 F3

Might I suggest that we give this year’s first NEOWISE comet the following name?

Comet NEOWISE 15 (C/2020 F3)

Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) 19 July 2020 3:21:59 UT 30s 55 mm f/4 ISO 1600 Canon EOS 100D
Photo by David Oesper
Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) 20 July 2020 3:38:57 UT 3m 55 mm f/4.5 ISO 1600 Canon EOS 100D
Photo by David Oesper
Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3) 23 July 2020 3:22:17 UT 2m 55 mm f/4 ISO 1600 Canon EOS 100D
Photo by David Oesper

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