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

C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) at perigee

Dominic Ford, Editor
From the Comets feed

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Comet C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) will make its closest approach to the Earth, at a distance of 0.66 AU.

From Fairfield the 2020 apparition of C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) will progress as follows:

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12 Oct 2020 – C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) at perigee
20 Oct 2020 – C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) at perihelion
21 Sep 2020CentaurusNot observable
23 Sep 2020CentaurusNot observable
25 Sep 2020CentaurusNot observable
27 Sep 2020CentaurusNot observable
29 Sep 2020CentaurusNot observable
01 Oct 2020CentaurusNot observable
03 Oct 2020CentaurusNot observable
05 Oct 2020CentaurusNot observable
07 Oct 2020HydraNot observable
09 Oct 2020HydraNot observable
11 Oct 2020CorvusNot observable
13 Oct 2020CorvusNot observable
15 Oct 2020CorvusNot observable
17 Oct 2020VirgoNot observable
19 Oct 2020VirgoNot observable
21 Oct 2020VirgoNot observable
23 Oct 2020VirgoNot observable
25 Oct 2020VirgoNot observable
27 Oct 2020VirgoNot observable
29 Oct 2020VirgoNot observable
31 Oct 2020BootesNot observable

A more detailed table of C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE)'s position on each night is available here. A diagram of the orbit of C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) is available here.

Finder chart

The chart below shows the path of C/2020 P1 (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 For most comets, we do not publish any magnitude estimates at all.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 7 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.

This comet is not expected to be visible to the naked eye, but might be visible through bird-watching binoculars.

The comet's position at perihelion will be:

Object Right Ascension Declination Constellation Magnitude
Comet C/2020 P1 (NEOWISE) 12h36m50s -21°20' Corvus 6.6

The coordinates are given in J2000.0.

The sky on 12 October 2020
Twilight ends
Twilight begins

25-day old moon
Waning Crescent


25 days old

Rise Culm. Set
Mercury 09:03 13:59 18:54
Venus 03:45 10:17 16:50
Moon 01:34 09:04 16:26
Mars 18:31 00:53 07:15
Jupiter 14:08 18:46 23:24
Saturn 14:32 19:15 23:59
All times shown in EDT.


Never attempt to point a pair of binoculars or a telescope at an object close to the Sun. Doing so may result in immediate and permanent blindness.


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 15 Mar 2021.

Image credit

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






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