Somehow I only heard out about Comet NEOWISE on Friday, but as soon as I did, I thought of my astronomy friend, Nancy. (Everyone has an astronomy friend, right?) I sent her a message asking about a good spot to look for it from, and it turned out she was headed out the next morning to check it out again! So, I set my alarm like I was going on a long rando ride, and got up and headed over to the meeting spot, which was within walking distance from my house. Woohoo!
In the meantime I’d checked out some diagrams online about where in the sky to look for the comet, but it was super helpful to have someone who had seen it before and knew where to look, and who had a super powerful laser pointer to point things out. Besides the comet there were the planets Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, and of course a bunch of constellations. Personal star party!!!
The comet was pretty low in the sky, so there was some fine tuning of our location to find a spot where it wasn’t behind some obstruction. And we couldn’t really get away from the streetlights, but, WE SAW IT!!!
I could actually see the tail unaided, although I’m not sure I would have picked up on it if I hadn’t been out specifically looking for a comet. With 10×50 binoculars it was quite splendid. And it looked just like a comet is “supposed” to look – bright fuzzy ball with a tail sweeping out behind it! Nancy said it was the best one she’s ever seen.
And, it was super fun to share the excitement – it was awesome how jazzed Nancy was – she was saying how she wanted to knock on the people’s doors whose houses we were near (no, we’re not spying on you with these binoculars) or stop the few cars we saw – get them to see it too. It reminded me of seeing the lunar eclipse on the 1000k in 2015. C’MON PEOPLE, CHECK OUT THIS COOL THING GOING ON IN THE SKY!!!
On my way home, once I knew where to look, although I couldn’t see it from in front of my house, if I went a bit east on my street, I was able to see it, and snapped a cell phone picture, which came out surprisingly good. Nothing like what you can get if you’re a professional, and get outside city limits, but whatever. I’ve actually seen a bunch of amazing shots online, but I’m really glad I went out and saw it in person.
The comet is now visible in Northern California in both the predawn low northeastern sky and the evening low northwestern sky. I haven’t caught it in the evening yet, but there’s still some time, so maybe I will.
Update: 7/18/20 got out for an evening viewing. It was a rather different experience, since, although the sun had set, the sky was still light so it took a while for the comet to be visible. The first time I saw the comet, it was in the morning so it was dark, and the comet was just there. Not sure if it was the ambient light in the evening, but it seemed you had to look not quite directly at the comet to see it with the unaided eye. And, although we were outside the city, the spot we were at was one of the few with a good clear northwest view, and we weren’t the only ones who had thought of it as a comet viewing spot. Which was cool that other people were checking it out, and it was mildly amusing to overhear some of their comments, but yeah… people. Anyway, the tail did seem longer, which it may have been, or may have just been more visible, being away from city lights. It was neat to see it again!
Also, with everything so crazy in the world today, it was cool to have something so above and outside of all that – a reminder and reassurance that there is more to the universe, and it keeps going on, regardless of the messes we humans make.