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How to See the Comet NEOWISE in Hawaiʻi

Astronomers tell us where to go, when to look and what to bring to see the brightest new comet in decades before it disappears.


Comet in the sky

a photo of the comet neowise taken on oʻahu’s north shore on july 17.
photos: richard wainscoat


It’s a once-in-multiple-lifetimes opportunity. We’re not exaggerating. The comet NEOWISE was first discovered on March 27 by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer spacecraft (thankfully, the name was boiled down into the much more conversational acronym NEOWISE). After this uncommonly bright comet disappears from view, the Earth won’t see it again for another 6,800 years.


That’s a lot of pressure. So, we asked the experts at UH’s Institute for Astronomy for tips for your best look at this new reason to watch the sky.


Assistant astronomer and outreach coordinator Roy Gal suggests looking for it before July 20; after that the comet will rise higher in the sky after sunset (meaning the sky will be darker), but it won’t be as bright as it moves away from the sun. Right now, NEOWISE is pretty low in the sky, so you will need an unobscured view of the northwest horizon to see the comet about an hour after sunset. Gal says the North Shore would be optimum or sites including Electric Beach on the West Side. Stay away from streetlights and other light pollution. Although the comet is touted as the first you’ll be able to see without instruments since Hale-Bopp in the mid ’90s, Gal says even in dark areas it will be barely visible to the naked eye, so bring binoculars or a telescope. An iPhone or DSLR camera with a short nighttime exposure will show off its long tail.


After July 20, the comet is supposed to still be visible until early August. Go to the same locations, wait a little longer after sunset and look just below the Big Dipper.


SEE ALSO: This Hawai‘i Astronomer Chases Solar Eclipses Around the World Trying to Solve the Biggest Mysteries of the Sun


NEOWISE comet in the sky


UH’s Institute for Astronomy’s Richard Wainscoat took these photos Friday, July 17 on the North Shore.


Comet in the Sky


If you didn’t have time to take more than 340 pictures of NEOWISE from the International Space Station, one of its astronaut’s did and turned the photos into a cool time lapse video. Read more about NEOWISE, see more images and get tips for photographing comets on NASA’s website




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