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2:14pm on Monday, 20th July, 2020:



I finally got to see comet Neowise last night. The clouds inexplicably parted for long enough that I make it out, first through binoculars then (just about) with the naked eye.

In 1910, a comet appeared that was visible in daylight with a tail that stretched across half the sky. At night, it was bright enough to read a newspaper by. That same year, Halley's comet came close enough that the Earth passed through its tail.

This is not how comets normally work. Neowise is only the second comet I've seen in my entire life so far. The disappointment begane with Kahoutec in 1973 and Halley in 1986 through Shoemaker-Levy in 1982, Hyakutake in 1996 and all those from then until the day before yesterday, except Hale-Bopp in 1997. Hale-Bopp either had no tail or did have a tail but I was looking at it along the tail's axis.

Unlike Hale-Bopp, Neowise does actually look like a proper comet. I might have been able to see it a day earlier had I been looking in the right place, instead of following one of those "second star to the right and straight on 'til morning" descriptions that came out when it first appeared. Basically, you look at the Plough, pick out the top-left and bottom-right stars of the rectangle bit, extend a line between these stars for twice its length, and you arrive at two stars close to each other. The comet is just a bit to the left of those (well, it was yesterday; it'll be slightly lower and a bit more to the left today).

Here, I drew a map!

It says something for my low artistic skills that I'm quite proud of this.

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Copyright © 2020 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).