Being famous doesn’t always make you a star. Try a comet! This is the 3.1 mile wide chunk of ancient ice popularly known as Comet NEOWISE. Officially, its name is C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). The comet was discovered by researchers using NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, a space-based infrared telescope. The NEOWISE mission is to spot comets and asteroids which are potentially hazardous to our planet.
Comet NEOWISE was discovered only recently, on March 27, 2020, after traveling all the way from the Oort Cloud – a massive field of icy bodies at the outer edge of our solar system. Astronomers spotted the comet as it was coming toward the sun. It shot into the inner solar system and passed the Sun at a distance closer than the planet Mercury. The comet survived its close encounter with the sun, and it’s now passing near Earth. It’s on a near-parabolic course that will bring it back to Earth again in 6,800 years. You might want to see it while you have the chance.
The comet is just visible to the naked eye and easy to see with a good pair of binoculars or a telescope. Until mid-July, the comet was only visible before dawn, but it’s now visible in the evening. To see it, go outside just after dark and look to the northwest, below the Big Dipper. It’s been appearing close to the horizon, but it will rise higher in the sky in coming days. It will continue to be visible until the middle of August, growing gradually dimmer as it heads back out to the far reaches of the solar system.
Photographer’s Note: I set up around 10 on our deck as it has unobstructed views to West, North and East. Started looking and finally found Comet Neowise a little after. Kind of difficult to spot without binoculars until 10:30 or so and then it was fairly easy to see. Finished taking photos about 11:30. Interesting to watch the comet move from west of Mt. Adams to east over the hour and a half I was out.
Photo: Eric Shrum
More Comet NEOWISE photos as seen from High Prairie:
Below: Photo: Carl Lindgren from near Schilling Road
Bottom: Photo: Jim Day, from near High Prairie Road