© Andy Roberts 1997. Pictured comet is C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.

C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) at perigee

Dominic Ford, Editor
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Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) will make its closest approach to the Earth, at a distance of 0.68 AU.

The comet's perigee – closest approach to Earth – should not be confused with its perihelion, when it passes closest to the Sun. Comets become much brighter when they pass close to the Sun. At perihelion their surfaces are heated and produce clouds of dust which give rise to their tails and extended coma around the nucleus. As a result, most comets are brightest around the time of their perihelion, not their perigee.

From Ashburn the 2020 apparition of C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) will progress as follows:

Begin typing the name of a town near to you, and then select the town from the list of options which appear below.
03 Jul 2020 – C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) at perihelion
23 Jul 2020 – C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) at perigee
02 Jul 2020AurigaNot observable
04 Jul 2020AurigaVisible from 05:11 until 05:27
Highest at 05:27, 10° above NE horizon
06 Jul 2020AurigaVisible from 05:02 until 05:24
Highest at 05:24, 12° above NE horizon
08 Jul 2020AurigaVisible from 05:00 until 05:20
Highest at 05:20, 12° above NE horizon
10 Jul 2020AurigaVisible from 05:02 until 05:16
Highest at 05:16, 12° above NE horizon
12 Jul 2020LynxNot observable
14 Jul 2020LynxNot observable
16 Jul 2020LynxVisible from 21:29 until 21:39
Highest at 21:29, 15° above NW horizon
18 Jul 2020Ursa MajorVisible from 21:33 until 22:13
Highest at 21:33, 19° above NW horizon
20 Jul 2020Ursa MajorVisible from 21:33 until 22:35
Highest at 21:33, 23° above NW horizon
22 Jul 2020Ursa MajorVisible from 21:33 until 22:56
Highest at 21:33, 27° above NW horizon
24 Jul 2020Ursa MajorVisible from 21:37 until 23:04
Highest at 21:37, 29° above NW horizon
26 Jul 2020Ursa MajorVisible from 21:37 until 23:13
Highest at 21:37, 32° above NW horizon
28 Jul 2020Ursa MajorVisible from 21:40 until 23:11
Highest at 21:40, 32° above W horizon
30 Jul 2020Coma BerenicesVisible from 21:40 until 23:08
Highest at 21:40, 33° above W horizon
01 Aug 2020Coma BerenicesVisible from 21:36 until 23:00
Highest at 21:36, 34° above W horizon
03 Aug 2020Coma BerenicesVisible from 21:31 until 22:55
Highest at 21:31, 35° above W horizon
05 Aug 2020Coma BerenicesVisible from 21:30 until 22:43
Highest at 21:30, 34° above W horizon
07 Aug 2020Coma BerenicesVisible from 21:26 until 22:36
Highest at 21:26, 33° above W horizon
09 Aug 2020VirgoVisible from 21:25 until 22:27
Highest at 21:25, 32° above W horizon
11 Aug 2020BootesVisible from 21:20 until 22:17
Highest at 21:20, 31° above W horizon

A more detailed table of C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)'s position on each night is available here. A diagram of the orbit of C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is available here.

Finder chart

The chart below shows the path of C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) over the course of its apparition, as calculated from the orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC). It is available for download, either on dark background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats, or on a light background, in PNG, PDF or SVG formats. It was produced using StarCharter.

Comet brightnesses

Comets are intrinsically highly unpredictable objects, since their brightness depends on the scattering of sunlight from dust particles in the comet's coma and tail. This dust is continually streaming away from the comet's nucleus, and its density at any particular time is governed by the rate of sublimation of the ice in the comet's nucleus, as it is heated by the Sun's rays. It also depends on the amount of dust that is mixed in with that ice. This is very difficult to predict in advance, and can be highly variable even between successive apparitions of the same comet.

In consequence, while the future positions of comets are usually known with a high degree of confidence, their future brightnesses are not. For most comets, we do not publish any magnitude estimates at all. For the few comets where we do make estimates, we generally prefer the BAA's magnitude parameters to those published by the Minor Planet Center, since they are typically updated more often.

Based on the magnitude parameters published for this comet by the BAA Comet Section, we estimate that it may be around mag 4 at perigee. This estimate is based on observations that the BAA has received from amateur astronomers, assuming that its current level of activity will remain constant.

The comet's position at perihelion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) 10h38m30s 44°24'N 3.7

The coordinates are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 23 July 2020
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

3-day old moon
Waxing Crescent


3 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 04:34 11:49 19:05
Venus 03:06 10:12 17:18
Moon 09:05 16:05 22:51
Mars 23:52 06:02 12:12
Jupiter 19:50 00:36 05:23
Saturn 20:14 01:06 05:58
All times shown in EDT.


This event was automatically generated on the basis of orbital elements published by the Minor Planet Center (MPC) , and is updated whenever new elements become available. It was last updated on 10 Nov 2021.

Image credit

© Andy Roberts 1997. Pictured comet is C/1995 O1 Hale-Bopp.






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