Comet 2020 F3 is creeping up in the post-sunset sky. On July 14, I may have seen it dimly through the distant haze – in moments when the nearer and opaque clouds drifted out from in front. In those 20 seconds, I saw what could be the nucleus of the comet through a pair of binoculars. Any hint of a tail was not to be seen. But, the sky map doesn’t show anything else in that part of the sky that would be bright enough to show through the haze.
I don’t call out family or friends for these desperate attempts at observation. Mostly because – when asked to point out this astronomical wonder – I am forced to say,
“See that cloud over there?”
“Yes, I see it.”
“The comet is behind that cloud.”
“How do you know?”
“Because that’s where the sky map says it should be.”
“I mean, how do you know for sure?”
That’s why astronomers have been considered lunatics – for centuries. You may think I’m joking, so look up a Danish fellow named Tycho Brahe. (Teak – oh Bra-hay)
Figure 2: Sky map as found at the July 14 link on the previous update.
On the next day, July 15, the forecast was for clear skies after sunset, but I made the Rookie Mistake of not setting an alarm and slept through the opportunity. Astronomers have to set their schedule by when the observation presents itself.
As Shakespeare wrote, “It is the stars, the stars above us, govern our condition.”
Shakespeare also wrote, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves”.
So, I have no excuse for not setting the alarm.
July 16-19, 2020 9:00 PM See that cloud? The comet is behind it.
In a message from my long-time reader and cousin:
My friend is in OK right now. I gave her all the info last week. I just got this message:
“WE SAW NEOWISE!!!!!
It was so awesome!! I was so excited like a kid walking into Disney World!!
It took us awhile to see it but it has to be very dark and we were out in the country..
The tail was very clear and all the stars around it just highlighted the beauty…”
I am happy to hear that someone has seen this comet. It is starting to dim now as it recedes from the Sun. It has yet to make its closest approach to the Earth, but any brightening by proximity is more than canceled by a more distant Sun and a calming of gas and dust emissions due to less Solar heat and radiation.
And a 3 ½ minute exposure by James W. Young – also from spaceweather.com