Comet Leonard was discovered in January. That’s right! Of all the things that are known about our night skies, there are still things to be discovered on a daily basis. The comet should be visible 45 minutes (or less) after sunset. Sunset is at about 4:30 these days.
Comets are a bit unpredictable in how bright they will be. While it may be assumed that the comet will not be visible to the naked eye, one can never be too sure of that. Thankfully, Comet Leonard has surprised some of us at how bright it has become.
Still, you’ll need a pair of binoculars to see the comet. A telescope will work even better. The map below shows how best to view it. We finally have clear enough skies to see it. You will also want a clear view of the horizon. The numbers on each comet on the image are the date at which it will appear in that spot 45 minutes after sunset. The comet has now climbed to a rather high altitude. As the evening progresses, however, it will sink lower and lower until it sets, giving us a rather short window (about an hour?) to watch it. Notice that finding Venus is key! Thankfully, that planet has no trouble catching our eye these days.
Hard to believe the comet is over 20 million miles away and traveling at 158,000 mph! The comet may get brighter in the coming weeks and it’s not impossible that it could become more visible to the naked eye. Some folks say they can already see a “fuzzy star” where the comet is located. Try to see if you can because it will be another 80,000 years before it comes back!
For those of you who really enjoy night sky viewing (or you have little ones in the house who do!), I HIGHLY recommend downloaded the Stellarium app on your phone. It’s free and it’s absolutely wonderful! Get that app and really step up your star gazing game.
Something else to look for is Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky these days. Find Sirius in Orion’s belt. Use Stellarium to find it, if you need to. That star rises in the southeast at about 8:00 pm.
In addition to the comet, be sure and check out Jupiter and Saturn too!
Comets are my absolute favorite thing to look for in the night skies. There’s just something about an icy ball of rock flying and tumbling through space, yet looking so still and peaceful from Earth.
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You all take care and have fun out stargazing!