Comet NEOWISE was visible over Vineyard skies on Wednesday night after weeks of waiting. Since its discovery on March 27, the comet has either been too faint or too inconvenient to see.

The comet sits conveniently underneath the Big Dipper in the northwestern sky about 1.5 hours after sunset.

Most comets are named after the person who discovered it but this comet gets its name from a device — the NASA-owned orbiting telescope called NEOWISE which first recorded it. The comet’s 4,500 year orbit around the sun is an extreme elliptic. It won’t return for another 6,800 years.

Astronomers report that the comet was closest to the Sun on Friday, July 3, when it came within 27 million miles. Many comets have fallen apart when they get that close.

Comet NEOWISE’s closest approach to Earth will be Thursday, July 23. Since it is moving away from the Sun it is also fading, thus the best opportunity to see the comet is now.

Comet NEOWISE is not as bright as some comets in recent memory, including Halley’s Comet in 1986; Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997; Comet Hyakutake in 1996. But with comets being so rare these days, just seeing one is a precious moment. Comet Swan was a major disappointment as was Comet Atlas. And astronomers watched in near real time as Comet Atlas broke into pieces as it moved closer to the Sun.

On Wednesday night, a small gathering of 10 people met at the West Chop overlook. The viewing began as darkness set in and the comet was spotted first under a contrail in the Northwest, over Woods Hole, a short distance above the horizon. Later clouds passed by. Without binoculars the comet was barely visible. Those with binoculars enjoyed a better show.