Meteors and comet offer twin treat for skygazers in France

Look to the skies to see comet NEOWISE before it vanishes from view for nearly 7,000 years, as well as the peak of one meteor shower and the beginning of another

28 July 2020
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) photographed from the heights of Collioure, Pyrénées-Orientales
By Connexion journalist

There's a double treat in store for skywatchers in France tonight, with most parts of the country set to enjoy largely clear skies.

Clear skies are forecast across large areas of France

Two meteor showers

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower started around July 12 and is active until late August - but it is set to peak on Tuesday into Wednesday, with between 10 and 20 meteors burning bright in the Earth's atmosphere as it passes through the dust debris left by comets Marsden and Kracht.

The best time to see the shower is around midnight. You may also catch a few shooting stars from the very beginning of the Perseids - which is set to peak around August 11. According to astronomy website EarthSky, broadly speaking, if a meteor comes from the north or northeast, it's probably a Perseid. If it's coming from the south, it's more likely from the Delta Aquarids.

How to see comet NEOWISE in France

Meanwhile, the comet NEOWISE, which was discovered in late March by astronomers during the NEOWISE mission of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) telescope, is still visible to the naked eye.

It has already generated some stunning images from France and around the world.

It survived a close encounter with the sun before reaching its closest point to Earth on July 23. It will be most clearly visible about an hour after sunset on Tuesday.

Look for the constellation Ursa Major and you should - if skies are clear enough - be able to see the comet to the left. You may need binoculars or a telescope.

A map of the Ursa Major constellation
Ursa Major

If you miss it, you will miss out. The comet is fading as it heads away from the sun and will become invisible to the naked eye in early August. It is expected to fly around again in about 6,700 years.

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