My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

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avid.astronomer
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My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

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Post by avid.astronomer »

Comets are made of rocks, dust and ice and perhaps more than anything, this describes my relationship with Comet NEOWISE. Sometimes rocky, often cold as ice, and occasionally kicking up the dust. But like all relationships, it takes two to tango, so to speak, and if I am to be honest, I have to take part of the blame.

You see, I’m not an early morning person by nature. I like to stay up late and get up late, which suits my hobby of amateur astronomy perfectly. So when I heard that the comet was going to be visible in the predawn skies for a few weeks before moving to the evening sky later in the month, my first thought was to just wait it out.

But then I saw the pictures coming in all over the Internet. Comet NEOWISE was looking gorgeous! By nature, comets are very unpredictable. They can brighten or dim without notice as they tumble through space and the Sun heats up different areas of the nucleus. If I waited until it completed its journey around the Sun and moved into the evening sky, would it still be fantastic, or would it fizzle out?

It seemed that by this point, most of the world had seen the comet. When grandchildren later would ask me what I thought of the Great Comet of 2020, what would I say? “Oh that thing… yeah, it appeared too early in the morning for me. I decided to sleep through it.” That thought wasn’t very appealing.

The next morning was forecast to be clear, but it was a workday. I set my alarm for 4:30am. This would give me time to throw on a few clothes and set up my camera in the driveway to take an image or two. I ended up not getting to bed until 2:30am (I told you I like to stay up late), but I went ahead and left the alarm to sound anyway. I wasn’t going to miss out!

The alarm went off and I dragged myself out of bed, helped along by the excitement of getting to see the comet. I quickly dressed and set up my equipment in the driveway. The sky was amazingly clear. And four of the naked eye planets were visible (Mercury hadn’t quite risen above my horizon yet). Jupiter and Saturn were paired close to each other, in the middle of performing their retrograde dance with each other. The third quarter Moon had sidled up next to Mars and was flirting unashamedly. Venus had found Taurus to chat with, and the Aldebaran, the bull’s eye, was twinkling brightly.

This was going to be amazing! Now I just had to wait another 15 minutes for the comet to rise above the housetops and I should get a great view. Then I remembered my binoculars. I quickly went inside to grab them and came back out to await the comet.

But on coming out, something had changed. The sky was no longer pristine. A large cloud blank was approaching from the south and quickly covering up the stars. Within five minutes, the sky was completely covered with these fast-moving clouds. I waited around for a few more minutes, hoping they’d vanish as quickly as they appeared, but looking south, it seemed a lot more clouds were still headed my way. Frustrated, I put my stuff up and went back inside, setting my alarm to get up an hour later, and crawling back to bed.

The next night called for partly cloudy skies, but I figured the weatherman was wrong once, maybe he’d be wrong again. Nope, another overcast morning and way too little sleep. At this point, I had decided that early risers could keep their comet and I’d wait to try again in the evenings, and hope that it didn’t break apart or dim too much before then.

Comet NEOWISE rounded the Sun on July 12, and every evening after that, I began looking for it in the northwest skies right after sunset. I carried my binoculars as I went up and down the streets of my neighborhood, looking between houses to catch a glimpse of my quarry.

My next door neighbor had also heard about the comet and asked me about it. We joined forces each night looking for it, but it was still too low in the sky and we failed. I was beginning to wonder if all these comet pictures were some giant conspiracy designed to get me to lose my eyesight straining to see something that didn’t really exist.

Finally, on Friday, July 17, my luck changed. I attended an online meeting of our local astronomy club and a couple of the members had seen the comet already (in the morning sky, but not the evening sky yet) and gave some pointers on how bright it was and how to spot it. It turns out I had been looking too soon after sunset. If I had waited another 15-20 minutes after I had already given up, I might have spotted it.

So after the meeting, I tried again. Finally, about 9:30pm Friday, I spotted it through my binoculars, right above the rooftop of the house across the street from my driveway. A couple of college students down the street saw me and asked if I could see the comet. I mentioned that I just spotted it and they came over to have a look. My next door neighbor also came by when he saw the three of us and he was able to see it through his binoculars as well.

Our neighborhood is on the south side of a big college town, so the light pollution to our north is terrible. So although we could see the nucleus and some of the comet’s tail, it didn’t look nearly as impressive as what others were posting online. Still, we had seen it with our own eyes and that was exciting enough. Future generations of children wouldn’t be disappointed in me now. I took a quick snapshot through my camera to commemorate the occasion and although it didn’t show much, you could see the comet in it if you looked hard enough.
20200717_214359.png
The next day was partly cloudy with an occasional shower passing through, so I didn’t hold out much hope for a repeat performance. I had to pick up my sister-in-law from the airport in Houston and didn’t arrive back home until about an hour before sunset. The skies were beginning to clear by then, but the northern sky still looked iffy.

Nevertheless, I decided to set up Cutie (my short tube refractor) in my driveway and try to see if I could get a photo of it. When the two college kids down the street saw me setting up, they came over with lawn chairs and binoculars to join me in my quest. My next door neighbor also came out with his binoculars and this little gathering was turning into a different sort of neighborhood watch.

As soon as we began to see the stars of the Big Dipper appear in the sky, we started scanning the heavens. I was the first to spot it in binoculars and tried to point out the general area to look to the others. I had my phone mounted to Cutie and quickly honed in on its location.

The telescope was only set to show it at 16X, but this turned out to be almost an ideal size. The image framed the comet between Alkaphrah and Talitha, two stars of Ursa Major. The comet appeared as a thorn stuck in the front paw of the great bear.
comet_neowise_20200718_213843.png
I hurried inside the house and invited my wife, father-in-law and sister-in-law to come out and take a peek. They came out immediately and suddenly we had a full-blown Comet Watch Party going on in my driveway. We continued watching the comet and talking about stargazing for a bit before the conversation turned to other things and the comet slowly slid below the rooftops and out of view.

In the middle of a pandemic, having an informal gathering like this was very refreshing. All is forgiven, Comet NEOWISE, and if you want to come back again tomorrow, I’ll welcome you with open arms.
Tom Campbell (astro.tomandjul.com)

[img=https://astrodatabot.azurewebsites.net/api/v1/sig.gif?code=DO1YwhxV4phITXWnJmpWWg3rKObzX/6vJlVVZ1stNNMcsTnbk5rF4Q==&UID=9079&Latitude=30.614277412828&Longitude=-96.289672851563]


SCOPES: Zhumell Z12 f/5 (Zoomie), Discovery DHQ-8 f/6, Meade DS-2080AT 80 f/10, Meade AS80 f/5 (Cutie)
BINOS: 10x50, 16x50, 10x70
1,124 Observations, 603 Objects (97 Glxy, 185 OC, 58 GC, 17 Neb, 39 PN, 171 Dbl)
AL Awards: Messier, Double Star, Bino Messier, Planetary Transit
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

#2

Post by helicon »

Nice catch Tom and you really persevered. I got up twice to see it at around 4:30 and was stymied on both of those occasions. Since the comet flipped to being an evening object I was excited. But it has been cloudy every night since July 12th. So at this point I'm just hoping to see it before it fades away. I have a nagging fear that by the time I can see it I'll need the 6" frac to detect it.
-Michael
Various scopes, 10" Zhumell Dob f/4.9, ES AR152 f/6.5, AWB 5.1" Onesky newt, Oberwerk 25x100 binos, two eyeballs. Camera: ZWO ASI 120
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

#3

Post by KingNothing13 »

Nice story Tom - glad you got to catch it. I caught it last night - going to try for #2 tonight, hoping the skies stay clear.
-- Brett

Scopes:
Primary: Apertura AD10 with ES 82* 18mm (69x), 11mm (114x), & 6.7mm (187x); Nexus II with 8192/716000 Step Encoders
G-n-G: Orion GoScope II 70mm "Travel Scope" with Orion 25mm Kellner (16x), Orion 10mm Kellner (40x)
Celestron SkyMaster 15x70 Binoculars
List Counts: Messier: 75; Herschel 400: 28; Caldwell: 10; AL Carbon Star List: 14
Carbon Star Hunt July 2021

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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

#4

Post by Bigzmey »

Congrats on the comet Tom! Having to work for it makes reward so much sweeter.
Scopes: Stellarvue: SV102 ED F7; Celestron: 9.25" EdgeHD F10, 8" SCT F10, Omni XLT 150R Achro F5, Onyx 80ED F6.3; Meade: 80ST Achro F5.
Mounts: SW: SkyTee2, AzGTi; iOptron: AZMP; ES: Twilight I; Bresser: EXOS2; UA: MicroStar.
Binos: Orion: Binoviewers, Little Giant II 15x70, WorldView 10x50, Nikon: Action EX 16x50 & 8x40.
EPs: Pentax: XWs, XL & 2xXFs; TeleVue: Delites, Panoptic & Plossls; ES: 68, 62; Vixen: 2xSLVs; Baader: 2xBCOs, Aspherics, Mark IV, Meade: Plossls.
Diagonals: Baader: BBHS silver mirror, Zeiss Spec T2 prism, Clicklock dielectric; TeleVue: Evebrite dielectric; AltairAstro: Positive lock prism.
Filters: Lumicon: DeepSky, UHC, OIII, H-beta; Baader: Moon & SkyGlow, Contrast Booster, UHC-S, 6-color set; Astronomik: UHC, Orion: UltraBlock, SkyGlow.
Observing: DSOs: 2293 (Completed: Messier, Herschel 1, 2, 3. In progress: H2,500: 1817, S110: 77). Doubles: 1452, Comets: 19, Asteroids: 97
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

#5

Post by Lady Fraktor »

Glad that you saw it Tom and could enjoy it with family :)
Telescopes: 1 more than I need but 2 less than I want
Mounts: 5 Equatorial, 3 Az/ Alt
Diagonal: 3 mirror, 2 Amici, 1 Herschel
Eyepieces: Possibly more than 1 person requires
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

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Post by helicon »

Congrats Tom on winning the Visual Report of the Day Award for your observation almost one year ago to the day.
-Michael
Various scopes, 10" Zhumell Dob f/4.9, ES AR152 f/6.5, AWB 5.1" Onesky newt, Oberwerk 25x100 binos, two eyeballs. Camera: ZWO ASI 120
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

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Post by kt4hx »

A nice trip down memory lane Tom, and congrats on today's VROD.
Alan

Astro Sky 17.5 f/4.5 Dob || Apertura AD12 f/5 Dob || Zhumell Z10 f/4.9 Dob
ES AR127 f/6.5 & ED80 f/6 on Twilight-II || Apertura 6" f/5 Newtonian on Twilight-I
TV Ethos 100° 21mm, 13mm || ES 82° 24mm, 18mm || Vixen LVW 65° 22mm
Pentax XW 70° 10mm, 7mm, 5mm || barlows
DGM NPB Filter || Orion Ultra Block, O-III and Sky Glow Filters || Baader HaB Filter
Primary Field Atlases: Interstellarum and Uranometria All-Sky Edition
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Astronomers, we look into the past to see our future." (me)
"Seeing is in some respect an art, which must be learnt." (William Herschel)
"What we know is a drop, what we don't know is an ocean." (Sir Isaac Newton)
"The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me...." (Blaise Pascal)
"No good deed goes unpunished." (various)
"I have become comfortably numb." (Roger Waters)
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

#8

Post by Makuser »

Hi Tom. An oldie but a goodie. You did a nice job of catching Comet NEOWISE and also some astronomy outreach. I am so glad that I caught this today, as I missed it last year. You have a great image of the comet with the short tube refractor. Thanks for the great report and view Tom, and congratulations on winning the TSS VROD Award today.
- Marshall
Sky-Watcher 90mm f/13.9 Maksutov-Cassegrain on motorized Multimount
Orion Astroview 120ST f/5 Refractor on EQ3 mount
Celestron Omni XLT150R f/5 Refractor on CG4 mount with dual axis drives.
Orion 180mm f/15 Maksutov-Cassegrain on CG5-GT Goto mount.
Orion XT12i 12" f/4.9 Dobsonian Intelliscope.
Kamakura 7x35 Binoculars and Celestron SkyMaster 15x70 Binoculars. ZWO ASI120MC camera.
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

#9

Post by avid.astronomer »

Y'all are a bunch of necroposters! :D

Haha, just kidding. Thanks for the award and for the opportunity for me to re-live my memories of that occasion. It already seems like so long ago. I'm ready for another comet.
Tom Campbell (astro.tomandjul.com)

[img=https://astrodatabot.azurewebsites.net/api/v1/sig.gif?code=DO1YwhxV4phITXWnJmpWWg3rKObzX/6vJlVVZ1stNNMcsTnbk5rF4Q==&UID=9079&Latitude=30.614277412828&Longitude=-96.289672851563]


SCOPES: Zhumell Z12 f/5 (Zoomie), Discovery DHQ-8 f/6, Meade DS-2080AT 80 f/10, Meade AS80 f/5 (Cutie)
BINOS: 10x50, 16x50, 10x70
1,124 Observations, 603 Objects (97 Glxy, 185 OC, 58 GC, 17 Neb, 39 PN, 171 Dbl)
AL Awards: Messier, Double Star, Bino Messier, Planetary Transit
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

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Post by kt4hx »

avid.astronomer wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 12:54 am Y'all are a bunch of necroposters! :D

Haha, just kidding. Thanks for the award and for the opportunity for me to re-live my memories of that occasion. It already seems like so long ago. I'm ready for another comet.
Tom, did you have a look at C/2020 T2 Palomar? Below are links from Andrey and myself of our observations:


viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19063&p=159080&hili ... ar#p159080

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19189&p=159630&hili ... ar#p159630
Alan

Astro Sky 17.5 f/4.5 Dob || Apertura AD12 f/5 Dob || Zhumell Z10 f/4.9 Dob
ES AR127 f/6.5 & ED80 f/6 on Twilight-II || Apertura 6" f/5 Newtonian on Twilight-I
TV Ethos 100° 21mm, 13mm || ES 82° 24mm, 18mm || Vixen LVW 65° 22mm
Pentax XW 70° 10mm, 7mm, 5mm || barlows
DGM NPB Filter || Orion Ultra Block, O-III and Sky Glow Filters || Baader HaB Filter
Primary Field Atlases: Interstellarum and Uranometria All-Sky Edition
---------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Astronomers, we look into the past to see our future." (me)
"Seeing is in some respect an art, which must be learnt." (William Herschel)
"What we know is a drop, what we don't know is an ocean." (Sir Isaac Newton)
"The eternal silence of these infinite spaces frightens me...." (Blaise Pascal)
"No good deed goes unpunished." (various)
"I have become comfortably numb." (Roger Waters)
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

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Post by avid.astronomer »

kt4hx wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 1:10 pm
avid.astronomer wrote: Wed Jul 21, 2021 12:54 am Y'all are a bunch of necroposters! :D

Haha, just kidding. Thanks for the award and for the opportunity for me to re-live my memories of that occasion. It already seems like so long ago. I'm ready for another comet.
Tom, did you have a look at C/2020 T2 Palomar? Below are links from Andrey and myself of our observations:


viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19063&p=159080&hili ... ar#p159080

viewtopic.php?f=6&t=19189&p=159630&hili ... ar#p159630
Not yet, but thanks for the heads-up. It might make a good target to show the boy scouts this weekend at their star party.
Tom Campbell (astro.tomandjul.com)

[img=https://astrodatabot.azurewebsites.net/api/v1/sig.gif?code=DO1YwhxV4phITXWnJmpWWg3rKObzX/6vJlVVZ1stNNMcsTnbk5rF4Q==&UID=9079&Latitude=30.614277412828&Longitude=-96.289672851563]


SCOPES: Zhumell Z12 f/5 (Zoomie), Discovery DHQ-8 f/6, Meade DS-2080AT 80 f/10, Meade AS80 f/5 (Cutie)
BINOS: 10x50, 16x50, 10x70
1,124 Observations, 603 Objects (97 Glxy, 185 OC, 58 GC, 17 Neb, 39 PN, 171 Dbl)
AL Awards: Messier, Double Star, Bino Messier, Planetary Transit
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

#12

Post by Chich »

Congrats on the VROD :)

I saw Neowise on my second morning out. Not proud to say I was looking in the wrong area and wasn't awake enough to realize it.
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Re: My Comet NEOWISE Report (in a blog style)

#13

Post by John Baars »

Congrats with the VROD!
Yes, the subject is one year old.
Necro-posting? Haha, what about all other dso-objects we post about?
Telescopes in Schiedam in frequency of use : * SW 150mm Achromat F/5, *SW Evostar 120ED F/7.5, *grabngo: SW 102 Maksutov F/13,
*Vixen 102ED F/9, *OMC140 Maksutov F/14.3, on Vixen GPDX.

Most used Eyepieces: *Panoptic 24, *Leica ASPH zoom, *Zeiss barlow, *Pentax XO5.

Most often used binoculars: *AusJena 10X50 Jenoptem, *Swarovski Habicht 7X42, *Celestron Skymaster 15X70,
*Kasai 2.3X40, *Swift Observation 20X80.

Rijswijk Observatory Foundation telescopes: * Astro-Physics Starfire 130 f/8 on NEQ6, * 6 inch Newton on GP, * C8
on NEQ6, * Meade 14 inch SCT on EQ8, *Lunt.

Amateur since 1970.
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