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Okanagan stargazers delighted by Comet NEOWISE: ‘It’s a very rare opportunity’

Click to play video 'NeoWise Comet ignites excitement in Okanagan' NeoWise Comet ignites excitement in Okanagan

A cosmic visitor, Comet NEOWISE, has astronomers and stargazers extra excited about the night sky.

“It’s going at a pretty quick velocity. It’s going at tens of kilometres per second as it orbits around the sun, but when you look at it at the sky you don’t perceive motion,” said JJ Kavelaars, National Research Council astronomer.

“It’s going so fast. It’s faster than anything you ever see on earth but we are so far away that we can barely perceive its motion.”

NEOWISE is now heading away from Earth’s orbit, but it can easily be found as long as you stay up late enough.

Read more: Dashcam captures ‘fireball’ over Metro Vancouver in broad daylight

If you look just below the Big Dipper near the horizon, you may see it.

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“It’s a very rare opportunity in a lifetime to be able to see something like this,” said photographer Nicole Howell.

“It’s amazing, seeing something so clearly and differently than you can see with the naked eye.”

Howell set up her camera on a tripod to take 1,000 photos every 18 seconds overnight to trace the comet’s movement through the sky.

Read more: NASA has ‘no concerns’ that ‘planet-killer’ asteroid will hit Earth

“NEOWISE is about five kilometres across and is a giant snowball that formed probably around the area where Jupiter or Saturn is today,” said Kavelaars.

“(It has) been orbiting around the sun for four billion years. That is now evaporating away.”

Kavelaars predicts that we will be able to see the comet for another week as it travels away from the sun.

Comet NEOWISE is the first since Hale-Bopp in 1997 bright enough to be seen from your backyard. The next comet that will be visible cannot be predicted just yet.

Click to play video 'How to catch a glimpse of NEOWISE' How to catch a glimpse of NEOWISE
How to catch a glimpse of NEOWISE

 

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