blog, sky watchers -

Comet Neowise


I am not an expert astronomer, but this is what I have gleaned from the reports.

This comet has been gracing the northern hemisphere skies the last few weeks and they have had an amazing show. Now it is our turn, but the comet will not be as bright as it is starting to head away from us. But there is still a chance.

As it only makes an appearance here every 6800 years, I am going to take every opportunity I can to photograph it. 

The comet was discovered by the NEOWISE (Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer) space telescope on March 27, 2020, using its infrared heat-sensitive channels.

It was seen in deep twilight during early July at 1st magnitude (1 being the brightest) and sporting a lovely dust tail 1 degree long.
The tail had grown to 15 degrees long by mid-July! But it is now also fading in brightness.

The northern hemisphere had an amazing show as the comet got closer to the earth. The comet was closest to Earth on July 22 2020.

It now has basically completed its orbit around the sun and is heading back toward the outer reaches of the solar system. Its surface is still being warmed by the Sun, resulting in a glowing coma and tail. This one actually has two tails — there is the ice and dust tail, which is white and in some of the long exposure shots you can actually see a blue tail, which is the gas coming off it. And apparently it is huge!! It has been said it covers as much sky as if you were to place 10 full moons side by side.

For the Southern Hemisphere

Overall, from now to mid-August will be the time for capturing the comet.

The earliest opportunity for southerners to see the fading comet occurred on the early evening of July 26, very low on the north-western horizon. But I had cloud L

Basically, the comet is slowly fading, and the moon is brightening, so now is the best time and then after the full moon from the 4th.

Moonlight will start to interfere in later July with a full moon on August 3.

By August 1, comet NEOWISE has gained altitude over the north-western evening horizon and will be 15 degrees up at end of astronomical twilight. The magnitude is then predicted to be 9. SO it is fading fast…

How to see Comet Neowise

In the northern hemisphere, they could see it with their eyes, but the comet is now fading so at best in the southern hemisphere, you will see it as a blurry dot. A better viewing can be had with binoculars, telescopes or zoom lenses on cameras.

Binoculars will help you see the comet and its’ tail in better detail. Try to get as far away from bright lights outside as possible and look to the north-west horizon. But don’t expect it to look as brilliant as some of the photos that have been  on Facebook or Instagram. Cameras can capture more detail than the eye.

Photographers will need to put their cameras on a tripod as they will need to expose the image for several seconds. As a starting point, put your camera on manual mode (M), turn your auto focus (AF) to manual focus (MF) and focus on infinity.

On a 24mm wide lens, turn your ISO 800, f2.8 and speed to 15 second exposure.

You will need to adjust depending on the amount of moon and your surroundings.

Try at different magnification or zoom settings, and the results should reveal the comet’s tail.

To help you find the comet, download the free version of Stellarium

Also, the website has excellent facts and figures to help you determine when it rises and sets and at what angle it is in the sky.

If you have clear skies, make sure you get out to see the comet sooner rather than later as with each day it is getting further away and dimming in view. And you won’t get another chance once it has gone. NASA has said it won’t be back in our part of its orbit for another 6,800 years.

Also in the sky this month

August 3 - Full Moon.

How to Photograph Just the Moon:

  • Tripod and DSLR
  • Select a long lens. Use a long lens (> 200mm) and zoom in as far as you can.
  • Set the camera to ISO 200.
  • Choose aperture. f/8
  • Choose shutter speed 1/200th.
  • Shutter speed must be greater than the mm of your lens. So if at 200mm you need to shoot at 1/200 or faster
  • Manual focus set to infinity.

August 11,13 - Perseids Meteor Shower.

  • One of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 to 100 meteors per hour at its peak.
  • Best seen from a dark place
  • Made of tiny space debris from comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862.
  • Runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of the 11th and morning of the 12th.
  • Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Leave a comment