Comet NEOWISE | Planet Opposition

Sunday evening 19 July 2020 the skies cleared providing another viewing opportunity for C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). We went just outside our garage door and looked northwest below the Big Dipper. A large River Birch tree shades us from the glare of the nearby streetlamp. We first looked at the comet through our 30x telescope.

I then set my digital camera on the tripod and zoomed all the way in for a photo. It was 9:53 pm local time. Several features are labeled in the resulting photograph. Comets have a core nucleus composed of rock, dust, water ice, and frozen carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and ammonia. Some describe them as freeze dried dirty snowballs. Their surface is littered with a thick layer of very dark material. The Sun heats this dark material and causes the ices to vaporize and escape into a cloud of gas around the core called a coma. The pressure of the solar wind forces the gas to stream away from the Sun producing the comet tail. It is very faint extending upward in this photograph. The Sun is out of view far below the bottom of this photo frame. Two reference stars were in view shining through the thin comet tail and coma.

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NEOWISE | iPad and NightCap

We had very clear skies last night about 10 pm. We walked a few doors down our street carrying a small telescope, tripod, and our iPad. That placed us between two streetlights. Our street runs SE to NW. Looking SE, there were Jupiter and Saturn. A quick setup of the Astroscan scope gave us nice views.

Looking NW, we both easily spotted comet NEOWISE with our naked eyes. The telescope view on 30x was great. We set the iPad with the NightCap app on long exposure and zoomed in a little. Pretty good for an iPad, we thought.

NightCap | Long Exposure mode | 21 sec

High above was Ursa Major. We got a shot of it, too. Both images were merged into this wider view giving some perspective on where to look for the comet. In the next week, it will be below U Major and move a little up to the left each night. Click for a bigger view.

NightCap | Long Exposure mode| 21 sec

Morning Planets at a Safe Distance

Jupiter took the lead guiding this trio across the morning sky. It is upper right at 6 am with Saturn and Mars close behind. Saturn is on top.

Three of the four Galilean Moons of Jupiter were visible at full zoom. A brisk breeze added a little camera shake. From left to right are Ganymede, Europa, and Io. Callisto was almost emerging on the upper right limb of Jupiter.

Saturn appeared as a tiny oval above Mars. It has been several days since we had a clear morning. It was a good start to the day.