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Posts Tagged ‘NEOWISE’

I have only seen, with my bare eyes, two comets.

The first one was Halley’s when it came in January 1986. My daughter had just been born a few weeks before. We went out in the dark fields and barely saw the smudge in the sky that was Halley’s Comet. It was not a spectacular showing that year. With a period of 75 years, it won’t be back until 2062. I remember thinking about the life of my daughter then, and realizing she’d be 75 years old when the comet would be back.

Today I saw the NEOWISE comet.

Trisha and I drove out to Lilac Road in Valley Center to have some unobstructed northern horizon. We found a suitable spot on the side of the road and pulled over. I knew where the comet was supposed to be with relation to the Big Dipper. The evening sky was still kind of light where the sun had just set. So we had some time to wait.

Trisha just bought a brand-new iPhone a few days ago. It is known to have an excellent camera. I suggested she’d take a picture of the Big Dipper to practice and see how it came out. She did, and showed me the picture she took.

NEOWISE Comet [click to enlarge]

And look! Down on the bottom of the picture you can see the comet. I knew approximately where it would be, but we could not even see it yet with our bare eyes. The camera found it for us. Now we knew where to look.

NEOWISE Comet

 

Here is another picture of the comet with me pointing at it.

NEOWISE is actually an acronym for the telescope that detected the comet in the first place, named Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer. The official comet’s name is C/2020 F3.

The comet will be visible with the naked eye through most of July 2020, and then it will start fading again, going on its long journey. But make sure you say good-bye, because it won’t come back to visit us until the year 8820. The last time it was here was about 4500 years ago.

And that puts my life into perspective. Today was a good day!

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