With these apps, searching is easy


The comet Neowise has been visible in the sky for days, only in the morning and now in the late evening. This week he comes closest to Earth. We explain where and when you can see the celestial body.

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The celestial phenomenon may have feared people in the Neolithic Age. Every 5,000 to 7,000 years, the Comet C / 2020 F3 aka Neowise passes so close to Earth that it can be seen with the naked eye. The phenomenon in the vastness of the solar system has been visible in the sky for days.

Coming Thursday (July 23), the comet is closest to Earth. Then it is still a good 100 million kilometers away from the blue planet, according to the Association of Star Friends in Germany, which is about two thirds of the average distance from the Earth to the sun.

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The spectacle will soon be over

Even if Neowise is slowly fading, he can still be seen in the night sky, according to the chairman of Sternfreunde, Sven Melchert. With the naked eye you can see a medium-light, fuzzy body with a pale train upwards. That is the comet’s tail. With binoculars, of course, this can be seen even better. By the end of July, it would then fade away completely.

While the weather up until Wednesday night offers even better chances of few clouds and a better view, on Thursday evening according to the German Weather Service, curious sky observers will probably only have the chance to catch a glimpse of the comet in southern Germany. In the middle of the country there could be cloud gaps in the meantime. The north and west would clearly be under the influence of low pressure. Sunset is on Thursday between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Where do curious people have to look?

After dark, look for a place with the best possible view to the north, where it travels beneath the constellation of the Big Dipper. The cell phone can help with a compass function. Apps also promise to track down the phenomenon.

For example, the “connect” website recommends the free “Comet NEOWISE” app for iPhone and iPad. Android users also have the choice between “SkySafari” and the “Comet and Planet Extension” for the “ISS Detector” app.

If you want to search without technical help, you will find a “Directions” from the German Aerospace Center (DLR) on Twitter. Accordingly, viewers must first look for the “Big Dipper” constellation. Then draw a straight line from the two “wheels” of the constellation towards the horizon in order to encounter Neowise.

Alternatively, you can use the bright star Capella for orientation. This glows just above the horizon after sunset. Neowise is on the left.

This is how comet pictures come off – with a camera or smartphone

The celestial body is so close to Earth that it can even be photographed with a smartphone camera on a cloudless night. Here are a few tips for the perfect snapshot:

  • Find a location with a clear view to the north. Elevated observation points on mountains or hills outside of cities are best suited. The area should be as dark as possible.
  • You need a tripod or a stable base to be able to take photos with a long exposure time without blurring.

With a single-lens reflex camera with focal lengths from 50 millimeters, even better pictures are possible. With a telephoto lens from 100 millimeters you can “get” the celestial body even closer.

The comet can also be focused with an autofocus on the moon or a bright star. The aperture should be wide open, so choose a small aperture number and experiment with different exposure times. This should not be too high, because otherwise the comet will quickly look blurry due to the earth’s rotation.

A higher ISO value can have a positive effect on the light sensitivity of the camera and make the comet’s tail appear lighter. When taking pictures with a smartphone, the self-timer or a remote control can also be useful, as this prevents the camera from shaking.

That is why Neowise shines

“Comets are tail stars, chunks of space a few kilometers in size, which consist of rubble, water and dust,” says the star friends. If a comet comes close to the sun, it is literally thawed and the comet’s tail is formed. Many comets would not survive this thawing, but Neowise was a “larger caliber”. Neowise was only discovered in March of this year by the reactivated space telescope of the same name.


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