July 11, 2020

Watching Comet Neowise at 3:30 AM

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.


If any reader is a Google employee and works on GoogleEarth, please contact me.  I need help in getting permission to use some images in the second edition of my Northwest Weather Book.


  1. I have an unrelated question. Why is there an area of “precipitation” on Doppler radar to the southeast of Port Angeles many days when there is simply no evidence of rain?This area remains stationary when other area move over time. Thank you.

    1. Lee: Cliff's post at https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2020/06/the-radar-shows-heavy-rain-offshore.html may be relevant.

  2. thank you for sharing this video ~ beautiful

  3. how appropriate, a comet to signify the terrible events to come in 2020!

  4. Cliff,

    Fantastic! I wish I had seen it in person. Of course, Greg always does such a great job. I'll have to say I want to see it both ways! Looking forward to your new book!

  5. Thank you for going to such great lengths to get a picture of Neowise. The picture and video are beautiful...much appreciated

  6. Many thanks! So happy to see your cellphone photo and the video! (Might inspire me to get up early . . .) "Astrobob" is also excited about it.

  7. I too saw the comet at about 3:30am on the 11th. It was not visible to the naked eye from my vantage point in Bellingham, mainly due to the abundance of high clouds. But it was an easy find in 8x46 binoculars. And a fine sight it was! A bright nucleus and very distinct tail. Comets can be such sublimely beautiful objects. I am going to hope for clearer skies and try again in the morning. You'll need an open view of the northeastern horizon.

  8. "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." - Too funny.

  9. Lee: Cliff's post at https://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2020/06/the-radar-shows-heavy-rain-offshore.html may be relevant.

  10. There's one really good reason to continue viewing Comet Neowise at 3 am rather than 11 pm. When I was out during the wee hours this morning, I was astounded to see every other planet except for Mercury in the sky. In order from northeast to southwest, I saw the comet, then Venus, then Uranus, then the Moon, then Mars, then Neptune, then Saturn, then (demoted) Pluto, then Jupiter. **WOW!!**


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