Friday night, July 24, 2020, offered possibly the last best chance for me to see and photograph Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). The comet was nearing its closest approach to Earth but was speeding away from our Sun as it headed toward the outer Solar System — it was closer to us but dimming!
I met up with other astro-folk and photographers at a Medina County park. This time, having made photos capturing the scenic beauty of the comet in the night sky, I traveled with telescope and computerized mount. I wanted to see what “close-up” detail I might capture in the comet’s nucleus and tail.
The old Meade-branded mount fired up and, to my surprise, I quickly achieved good alignment using a compass and “eyeballing”. The recently-discovered comet wasn’t in the computer-controller’s database so I selected a spot as near the comet as I could and manually moved the telescope for aim. Through binoculars I was readily able to spy the comet, though it was noticeably dimmer than a week earlier. A companion and I both were sure we caught a naked-eye glimpse of the object through averted vision. It certainly did not reflect in the park’s lake waters.
So I shot a number of image series, experimented with various ISO settings, and shot a few images in “portrait” orientation in case I might record long cometary tails. That’s not what I got.
The camera recorded/rendered C/2020 F3 with a vivid green nucleus with a diffuse, reddish tail. Through the telescope I could see the greenish tint so I knew that was real and to be expected in the images. These close-up images are not what I expected but, I think, not bad; they serve as a farewell to a comet that brought a good deal of excitement to the amateur astronomical community in general and to me in particular.