Thursday 23 July 2020

Last chance to capture Comet Neowise

Jupiter (top centre) and Saturn (top right)

Half past midnight, I stuck my head out of the front door and checked. Had the cloud cover broken for the promised hour? There were gaps where the stars glinted through, so I put on a jacket, grabbed the tripod and camera and wandered down Fen Road.

Beyond the last street lights, I entered the dark tunnel of trees and hedges, came out into the open at the level crossing and continued down the winding road till I reached the small bridge over the creek.

There was a clear view across the fields. To the South, Jupiter and Saturn were visible between the broken clouds and I took my first photographs of them to settle in. As the cloud cleared and I zoomed in with my 55-300 mm lens, I could see Jupiter sporting two moons to one side.

Saturn and Jupiter with two moons close by

Facing North and aiming for between the Big Dipper and the trees on the horizon, I started hunting for, and found, Comet Neowise. It was invisible to my naked eye but it could be seen even with the 55 mm lens.

First sight of Comet Neowise

Zooming in was a problem. I had to find a distant light, zoom in and refocus, then go back to where I thought the comet was. I could only find it my taking several pictures as I scanned the horizon.

Zooming in on Comet Neowise

The core of the comet definitely had a green tinge, hinting at the cyanogen gas being emitted and ionised by the sun's solar radiation.

After an hour, I suddenly noticed the cold, packed up and mady my way home. A lone figure loomed out of the darkness, followed by jogging little green lights that turned out to be the luminous collar of his dog. We chatted and then went our separate ways in the silent village night.

As I made myslef a cup of hot chocolate, I could see the clouds scurrying in again and counted myself lucky to have had this last window to see the comet before it disappeared on its 4000 to 6600 year journey out and back again through the solar system.