Don’t Worry: That Bright Streak in the Sky is the NEOWISE Comet, Not Aliens

The Neowise comet, as seen from Kreva, Belarus, on July 13, 2020.  (SERGEI GAPON/AFP via Getty Images)

While living through 2020 frequently resembles a disaster movie, try not to be alarmed over the next few weeks if you see a bright streak of light in the sky. It is neither aliens nor an asteroid, despite those being just about the only two things missing from this year. It is, in fact, the very beautiful and very harmless NEOWISE comet—and it’s set to be hanging out in the Bay Area until August.

It’s been visible in the morning, low on the northeast horizon, for a while now. But starting this week, we’ll be able to see it in the evening too. At sunset, you can find it in the northwest sky, below and to the right of the Big Dipper (the one that looks like an upside-down kite). And if you can’t find the Big Dipper, just search to the right of where the sun goes down.

NEOWISE is brand new to humans, having only been discovered on March 27 and promptly named after the telescope that caught it. It’s three miles wide and has two tails (aw!)—a gold one made of dust, and a blue one made of gas and ions. It will appear brightest on July 23, when it’s closest to Earth. (Don’t panic! It’ll still be 64 million miles away!)

Catch it while you can, stargazers—it won’t be back for another 6,800 years.

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