Watching Comet Neowise at 3:30 AM

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I got up at 3 AM this morning to view COMET Neowise.   The COMET had passed the sun on July 3, getting as close as 27 million miles, and is now moving back out into the solar system.  Its orbital period, the time to complete a loop from near the sun to location far beyond the planets, is 6800 years.  So you better catch it this time.

It was not a little strange walking the streets to find a vantage point at 3:15 AM.   Some animals shuffled in the bushes and amazingly, there was some light on the northern horizon.   There is only about 2.5 hours of real night this time of the year and astronomical twilight had already begun when I was out there.   Extraordinarily, some folks were shooting off fireworks at the time and I could hear loud shouting in the distance. Perhaps their deep joy in seeing the comet.

When I climbed to a good perch to view the northeast horizon, I was able to see Neowise—-faint, but clearly visible.  Here is a shot from my smartphone.

But if one wants a good picture of something in the sky, it often wise to first check with Greg Johnson of Skunk Bay Weather, who has a high quality camera surveilling the sky each night.  He captured the event nicely–check out his video (below).   You will see the comet rising, starting about 10 seconds in.  And at one point, the comet crosses a contrail from a high-flying jet.

A worry this morning was the high cirrus from an approaching weather system….it will rain tonight.  Fortunately, the cirrus was thin enough, and the COMET bright enough, that one could see Neowise.

For those who don’t like getting up at 3 AM, soon the COMET will be viewable after sunset.  And the COMET will be getting closer to us, being nearest on July 23rd (64 million miles!).   Unfortunately, moving away from the sun, the COMET will probably dim.   Hopefully, it will still be visible. 6800 years is a long time to wait.

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