Catching The Comet

Our next opportunity won’t be till 8820 A.D. For those hoping to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone, there will be several observing opportunities over the coming days as it becomes increasingly visible, shortly after sunset, in the northwest sky.

This gorgeous photograph comes courtesy of Bob Horton, the manager of astronomy laboratories and Ladd Observatory at Brown. When I contacted him about the photo and his title he added “. . . more importantly I’m an amateur astronomer/astrophotography that enjoys sharing my love of stargazing with others.” He is also a past-president of Skyscrapers, Inc.

Go to the Ladd Observatory Facebook page for more of Bob’s photos and others contributed by like-minded enthusiasts. This photo, taken a few days ago over Shippee Sawmill Pond in Foster, had to be cropped for formatting purposes — the comet is actually reflected in the pond! Another of his shots posted yesterday caught the space station passing between the Big Dipper and the comet.

Obviously the best locations for viewing the comet are away from city lights, but we cityfolk may still have a chance if the weather cooperates, as it will be rising higher above the horizon with each passing night. From the NASA How To View page:

For those hoping to catch a glimpse of Comet NEOWISE before it’s gone, there are several observing opportunities over the coming days when it will become increasingly visible shortly after sunset in the northwest sky. If you’re looking at the sky without the help of observation tools, Comet NEOWISE will likely look like a fuzzy star with a bit of a tail, so using binoculars or a small telescope is recommended to get the best views of this object.

And about that name:

Discovered on March 27, 2020 by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission, Comet NEOWISE is putting on a dazzling display for skywatchers before it disappears, not to be seen again for another 6,800 years.

Interested in astronomy? Check out Skyscrapers, Inc. “a group of amateur astronomers who share a love of the sky. Members include knowledgeable veterans and beginning observers who get together regularly to discuss and learn about the science of astronomy.”

Skyscrapers was founded in 1932 by Dr. Charles H. Smiley of Brown University. The society incorporated in 1936 and purchased the observatory in North Scituate once owned by noted amateur astronomer Frank Evans Seagrave.

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