Saturday, July 18, 2020

Tonight is perhaps the best night yet to see Comet Neowise

You can probably tell by now that I am quite interested in astronomy... in fact, one of the most difficult decisions of my life was deciding between astronomy and atmospheric sciences..  I tried to bridge the gap by studying both as an undergraduate and working with Carl Sagan on modeling the Martian atmosphere.  But in the end, I went for atmospheric sciences.


Anyway, tonight may be the best night yet to view Comet Neowise.  The sky is quite clear, with only a few thin cirrus clouds (see below).


The atmosphere is very, very clean.   The Seattle PanoCam shows excellent visibility:


And the latest air quality measurements show extremely clean air.  Looking at the particulates over Seattle, the values (PM2.5) are under 10 micrograms per meter cubed.   Take a deep breath--this is the good stuff.


Sunset tonight is 9 PM.   My advice is wait until 10:45 PM to look, and it would be better to wait until 11:00 PM.   Astronomical twilight doesn't end until 11:35 PM...so there will be slight light in the sky until that time.  Amazing, isn't it?

Look to the Northwest in the lower sky under the Big Dipper (see figure from Stardate.org below)


Professional Tip:  If you are having trouble finding the comet, take a picture of the sky with your smartphone (turn the flash off).  The cameras in most smartphones are more sensitive than your eye.  Then look at the image you have taken.  It may shock you--the COMET will be there!

Professional Tip2:  Use your peripheral vision to find the comet, the center portion of the retina is not as light sensitive strangely enough.

Good comet hunting! 

19 comments:

  1. The comet was so faint when i went to see it at around 11pm...if not for others showing me where it was, i couldnt even tell.
    It was quite a letdown...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it's not a Great Comet like Hale-Bopp was, but it's no slouch either. If you take binoculars outside, particularly if you can brace yourself against a car or have a rigid mount for them, your view will be much more rewarding. Through a moderately sized telescope and with dark skies, the full extent of the tail is quite impressive indeed.

      Delete
    2. Welcome to the world of Light Pollution.

      Even a few miles out into the country and it's MUCH more visible.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I keep hoping there will be one magnificent comet in my lifetime, one that fills the sky like Halley's Comet did in 1835. So far no such luck. At best, they are barely visible.

      Delete
  2. In wenatchee we could see with without aid, but was pretty awesome with binoculars

    ReplyDelete
  3. We have too many trees here so we went to our cabin in Cle Elum last night and it was pretty visible by 11. A pair of binoculars make a big difference.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Funny how people think this will be an in your face comet that they can easily see. Reality is, it's not. Best viewed with binoculars or a telescope.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It's interesting you say that the air is really clean. Here in Port Orchard I've been smelling forest fire smoke all day. In the morning it was especially strong and the air was hazy. I don't know where it's coming from, the Chelan fire maybe? I plan to find the comet tonight, but I have to walk a ways from home because there's trees in the way.

    ReplyDelete
  6. It's definitely become both fainter and larger than it was last week in the morning sky.

    I can relate to your conundrum Cliff - astronomy was my 7th grade science project, weather my 8th grade project. Neither chosen for a profession but both life-long hobbies!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Wildfire smoke settled into N Kitsap around 8PM and the Cascades got very fuzzy from near Suquamish. Any idea where from? InciWeb doesn't show anything close.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Cliff,

    OK, I will wait until about 11pm to see it! Thanks for letting us know.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thanks for the tip to look with our peripheral vision; wouldn’t have located it otherwise. Once I located it, I used binoculars to get a better look. Beautiful!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I am genuinely disappointed...only because I can clearly see the Big Dipper, but the likely location of the comet is below my neighbor's massive cedar hedges. Boo hoo!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Check to see if your phone's camera has a night mode. This helped a lot. You won't see it when you're taking the picture, but when the pic saves it will show the comet.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I used binoculars to get a better look. Beautiful! Even though there's a lot of light pollution on my street, I could see the long tail.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Good viewing last night. Great advice about not looking directly at it. And wait for your eyes to get used to the dark - about 5 minutes. Binoculars let you see the tail even better, but visible without also. The darker the area you are in, the better.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Fog here near the water in Sequim last night, but was still able to get a brief glimpse. Looking forward to better views in the coming week.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Saw it tonight around 1045 (very faint, but I could just make it out w naked eye) with low power binocs it was a more obvious blur. Very cool. And an extra treat, with binocs I could just make out Jupiter's moons in the South.

    ReplyDelete
  16. It's actually a lot of fun to photograph. If you are into digital photography and have a fast lens and a camera can take good pictures with high ISO settings, you can get some good shots hand held. If you have a tripod, you can set ISO settings lower and capture an image over several seconds and these come out really nice. It also helps to have young eyes. My son and grandsons could see it un-aided but I could not. Binoculars are a simple solution for this.

    ReplyDelete