by Tom Pennino
After hearing members speak at the ASLI meeting Wednesday night, July 15, I realized that only Bill Bradley was able to view the Comet both during its AM apparition, and then during its PM apparition. Bill commented that the AM view on Sunday morning far exceeded the twilight view he got of the Comet, along with Karl, from Robert Moses State Park. So I decided to skip out of this meeting at 9 PM, and head on up to Sunken Meadow & experience the different views for myself.
Only a 10 minute ride for me, I arrived at the main pavilion at 9:30, and was surprised at so many Comet enthusiasts lined up on the boardwalk, attempting to get a view (and a photo) of our celestial visitor. Around 9:40, I noticed a smudge in the NW, and putting my 10X50 binoculars up to my eyes, I confirmed that I had it in sight.
NEOWISE was about 17 degrees above the NW horizon, and after 5 more minutes, its two-degree tail became visible naked eye. NEOWISE rapidly sank during the next 15 minutes, appearing only 10 degrees up by 10 PM.
However, due to darkening skies, it remained visible naked eye, with a 2 degree tail pointing up to the NE.
As I left the park at 10 PM, it was still visible naked eye from the parking lot.
And just as Bill expressed earlier, this PM viewing was “no where near as brilliant” as what we experienced early Sunday morning. However, note that as I left, we still had 30 minutes left of astronomical twilight. When we first arrived back on sunday morning, astronomical twilight was just set to begin.
So this, along with of course evening lights about during PM viewing, is the main reason for the poorer viewing during PM. And add the fact that NEOWISE is also dimming, and this is all the more reason for the “less than dramatic views” now, compared to that we experienced early on sunday.
Never the less, with the Comet increasing in elevation each evening, and approaching Earth, just maybe this all will lead to much better sights that NEOWISE will offer against a later, and much darker sky in the coming weeks. We`ll have to wait and see.
Comet c/2020 (NEOWISE) photographed at 3:30 AM Sunday morning on July 12, 2020.
Info: Canon 6D, 105mm lens at f/4, 2 second exposure, ISO 3200