The phenomenon everyone should witness right now……

So there is something everyone needs to do right now other than to wear a mask. Through the end of this month, the comet known as Neowise is making an appearance in the skies of the Northern Hemisphere and it is putting on a spectacular show, which can be seen with the naked eye. 

The comet can be seen to the northwest right after sunset (under clear skies) and won’t be seen again in any of our lifetimes. Well that is assuming scientists don’t discover a formula to make humans immortal.

Anyway, on the first night I set out to see the comet on a lake nearby (Lake Lavon), I didn’t have any binoculars and was able to spot it and photograph it using my 90mm lens with my Sony A7R3.  And that is prob how most of us will see it under clear skies:

 

On the other hand if you are able to find a dark sky area near you. You should certainly go check out it without light pollution. I got the chance to photograph the comet over some darker skies along the Texas-Oklahoma border last week. And boy did it make a world of a difference in terms of seeing the tail. Here is a wide angle shot of that (I could quite literally see it like this with my naked eyes).

My initial intention was to capture the comet as it passed by the blade of a windmill, but that fell apart on this rather windy and energy productive day for the wind farm. And so I just used my Tesla as the foreground and couldn’t help but ponder what people 6800 years from now would use as a foreground to photograph this comet. Oh yeah there was also an annoying blinking red light of the windmill that made its way into all of my images:

If you are able to go to a dark sky region (or darker area without a city to the South), you will also be able to see the Milky Way. I very much enjoyed watching and photographing the comet, but this was perhaps my favorite shot of the night:

How to find the comet in the sky.

In order to find the comet I personally used the combination of two apps: Stellarium Web, and ClearOutside (for cloud forecasting). If that is a bit too complicated for you, NASA as an app which will give you the basic details of times and it can be found right here.

My recommendations:
  • Buy some binoculars for a closer look
  • Have a telephoto lens on your camera preferably anything above and beyond 90mm
  • Go to an orange area on the dark sky map or a park where you normally would see the stars well
  • Lakes are always great places because you have a greater chance of seeing the comet if there are clouds in the sky.
Here are some facts about Neowise that may intrigue you to go check it out:
  • Neowise is a comet which is approximately 5km (3 mi) in diameter
  • The comet is moving at 40 miles per second (144,000 mph or 231,000 km/hour)
  • The dust trail of the comet measures close to 10 million miles by many estimates.
  • The last time the comet passed by was 6800 years ago and it won’t be seen for another 6800 years.
  • On July 22nd it was the closest to the Earth, just a “mere” 64 million miles from our planet
  • Comets are just made up of dust and ice and usually break apart from flying too close to the Sun. And so the comet is what is termed as a “survivor”
  • There is approximately 13 million Olympic swimming pools worth of water frozen within the comet

Personally I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to photography. I like to imagine phenomenons in the context of grand vistas. So I am always on the look out for a good foreground element to capture stuff like this. My cousin Sasidhar on the other hand likes to perfect closer in compositions and intimate landscapes. He came away with this stunner of an image over the skies of Central New Jersey, an otherwise very light polluted area. It’s a close up of the comet shot on the Sony A7R3 + 135mm F2.8 telephoto lens.

Disclaimer: Do note that all of the images are the property of Grabamile and reuse is not allowed without written permission. If you would like prints of any images please DM me on instagram @pvtejasvi.

Summary

Watching Neowise can be a great way to experience the vastness of our universe, while social distancing. Please do be aware that areas near lakes and parks have been known to be crowded at the times the comet is visible. So make sure to keep that mask and socially distance where you can. Ideally you want to go to an area away from the city where people won’t be a problem.

2020 would be the year of space exploration if it weren’t for the virus. This and the launch of the SpaceX rockets have provided a nice respite from an otherwise troubled world suffering from a crisis of gigantic proportions.


Have you seen Neowise? Do you plan on going out to see it?

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