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'The comet of the century' - NEOWISE comet is visible in Irish skies

The NEOWISE comet is expected to be visible in Ireland until the end of July

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Image: Shutterstock/IgorZh

A RECENTLY DISCOVERED comet has become visible to the naked eye and can be seen in the sky over Ireland. 

The NEOWISE comet, named after the telescope that discovered it, brightened to reach visibility as it approached the sun. 

“For us in Ireland, it’s the comet of the century,” said David Moore, the chairman of Astronomy Ireland.

According to Moore, the comet is expected to have approximately two months of visibility, with one month in the northern hemisphere and the other in the southern hemisphere.

However, there remains a chance that NEOWISE could fizzle out before the end of the two month period.

“Comets are unpredictable, all bets are off,” said Moore, explaining that the comet could already be in the process of fizzling out.

Currently, the comet is moving closer to Earth and at its closest on 22 July, it will be around 100 million kilometres away. For scale, the Earth is around 152 million kilometres away from the Sun. 

The comet was first discovered back in March when it brightened as it approached the sun while in orbit around Mercury.

It has been sighted across the world, with pictures appearing on social media showing the comet in full view. 

Moore advises anyone who is interested in seeing the comet that while it will be possible to see with the naked eye, using a pair of binoculars will allow people to see the comet far more clearly.

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As for when to look for the comet, at the moment the best time is between 11 pm and 1 am.

To find the comet, people should look north and try and find the plough constellation. Alternatively, face directly opposite the moon and it should be visible with a clear sky.

“To get a comet with a tail you can see with the naked eye is a once in a decade event,” said Moore. 

According to Moore, there have been two other comets that were recently expected to be visible to the naked eye. However, they fizzled out before they reached close enough to the Earth to become visible.

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