Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) was, for us in North America, a predawn object requiring exceptional dedication for observing. See a previous post. In the second week of July, the comet had moved enough in its orbit to become visible in the evening sky — from late twilight to about 11 p.m. Unfortunately, cloudy nights have been the rule lately so opportunities have been few.
On Wednesday night, July 15, the sky forecast was a bit shaky but it turned out the sky cleared enough to allow C/2020 F3 to be seen. I raced off to an observing site some 25 minutes away from home, popular with sunset watchers and, occasionally, comet spotters. Arriving at the site I found the place mobbed, the parking lot nearly full, by scores of would-be comet viewers. Unfortunately, the comet was pretty much at the low end of naked-eye visibility. Light pollution reduced contrast between comet and background sky to make the object nearly invisible. It’s likely most of those in attendance never saw the comet.
Binoculars quickly revealed “NEOWISE,” and a reference exposure I made of the area I expected to find the comet showed I was on target. I shot a number of photos but had problems with focus using the 400mm telephoto; I’m not happy with my “closeups.” As with my predawn photo experience, I found a wider view was much more interesting anyway and that’s what I’ve posted here.
Entitled “Purity and Pollution,” this picture (a single exposure of 8 seconds) shows a pristine wonder of the night sky floating serenely amongst the stars, clouds glowing brightly below illuminated by artificial light pollution. If we were only more careful with our artificial light, we’d save gobs of energy and gain back our starry skies as a bonus!
C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) will be gracing our skies for the next week or so and I hope to have more than one opportunity to record the event before it is gone. The next apparition of this comet is expected in about 6,800 years.