ADLER PLANETARIUM TO HOST VIRTUAL OBSERVING EVENT JULY 23
NEOWISE, a rare, bright comet is visiting our part of the solar system for the first time in a little over 4,000 years! It will be visible starting about 30 minutes after sundown from now until around July 27. In addition, from 4:30-5:00 am this week, all seven planets in our solar system will be visible in the early morning sky at the same time, a once-in-20-year occurrence! Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn will be visible to the naked eye, and Uranus and Neptune will require good binoculars or a telescope.
In honor of these rare celestial happenings, the Adler Planetarium will host Adler Live!, a virtual public observing event this Thursday, July 23 at 8:30 pm via Adler’s YouTube channel. This event is free!
Join the Adler’s Director of Public Observing, Michelle Nichols for an interactive conversation about how to view both NEOWISE and the full line-up of planets. Michelle will also share recent images of NEOWISE from her telescope. Audience questions are encouraged!
About Comet NEOWISE:
This is the first time this comet has visited our part of the solar system in a little over 4,000 years. As the comet has dived through the “populated” part of the solar system the pull of gravity from the planets has changed its orbit so that it will now take over 6,500 years to orbit the Sun once.
The comet will reach its closest point to Earth—a.k.a. “perigee” (peri=near, “gee,” as in geo: Earth)—on July 23, 2020. The comet’s perigee distance will be about 64 million miles away.
The Big Dipper will be a handy marker in the sky to find the comet: if you can find the Big Dipper, you have a good chance of seeing Comet NEOWISE. Will it be visible with the naked eye? We don’t know. It is looking hopeful!
Comet NEOWISE is traveling at 165,000 miles per hour, or 45 miles per second. For comparison, the International Space Station orbits Earth at about 17,000 miles per hour, or just under 5 miles per second.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was discovered by NASA’s NEOWISE space telescope on March 27, 2020. NEOWISE stands for Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. The NEOWISE space telescope currently searches for near-Earth objects such as comets and asteroids.
About the Solar System “Planet Parade”:
7 planets in our Solar System will be in the sky at the same time during the week of July 20, 2020: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, & Neptune—and if you look down at your feet, you can add Earth as number 8!
In the Chicago area, the time frame to try to spot the planetary parade is about 4:30 am to 5:00 am.
Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are visible to the naked eye.
To see Uranus and Neptune will require good binoculars or a telescope.
Jupiter and Saturn will be visible low in the western sky, with Jupiter as the brighter of the two.
Mars is bright orange & will be to the south about halfway up in the sky.
Venus blazes brightly in the east.
Mercury is very low in the sky to the northeast, and it will be the hardest to spot with your eyes.
Uranus and Neptune will frame Mars, with Neptune to the west of Mars and Uranus to the east. Again, a telescope or good binoculars will be required to see both of these planets.
This arrangement of planets happens about every 20 years.
How do you know you are seeing a planet and not a star? The rule of thumb to follow is “stars twinkle” and “planets don’t.” tay tuned for more exciting opportunities to escape to the stars (and planets) this summer with the Adler. Because of COVID-19, many people are unable to take their regular summer vacations. Each week from now until Labor Day, the Adler will act as a virtual travel agent “to the stars” with special Adler Space Tours themed programming. Discover your planetary neighbors, explore mysterious worlds, and get ready for galactic adventures throughout space (and time). There’s never been a better time to escape to our universe! Follow our social media channels @adlerplanet for each week’s themes and activities or check them out here: https://www.adlerplanetarium.org/explore/adler-space-tours/.
About the Adler Planetarium:
The Adler Planetarium connects people to the Universe and each other. Whether it is introducing a guest to the Ring Nebula, a neighborhood school to a community partner, a research team to a network of citizen scientists, or one staff member to another, the Adler’s focus on meaningful connections dates back nearly a century.
The museum typically hosts more than half a million visitors each year and reaches millions more through youth STEAM programs, neighborhood skywatching events, people-powered research, and other outreach efforts. Today, the Adler is bringing our unique approach—scientific exploration rooted in community and connection—to guests from around the world who can enjoy the digital Adler from their own homes, libraries, schools or offices. With the Adler’s support, people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities gain the confidence to explore their universe together and return to their communities ready to think critically and creatively about any challenge that comes their way.