Thursday, July 16, 2020

Get Out! And Watch Comet NeoWise

Neowise over Stonehenge (NASA)
by Peggy Robin

Finally, something safe you can do outside with the family! All you need is a clear field - best to find one far away from the city lights and any trees or houses that would block the horizon. Oh, and you need a cloudless night. But you don't really need a telescope. A good pair of binoculars will be fine.
It's Comet Neowise!
Watch this 2 minute and 12 second video from the Capital Weather Gang and you will be all set to catch a view of the comet about 45 minutes after sunset in the northwest sky on the next clear night:   
The best night could be July 22, the point at which it passes closest to earth. But you have until the end of this month to see it. You don't want to wait too long.....or you will have to wait another 6,800 years until it comes back around this way again.
Don't you love that mystical name NEOWISE? It's actually an acronym for "Near-Earth Objects Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer" - that's the name of the instrument that first spotted the comet.
Want to know more about NEOWISE? Go to the blog for some higher level space-nerd talk and technical detail:
Want a lower level of talk, including some of the cultural baggage surrounding comets - the superstitions, myths, and historical gossip? Comets have long been taken as heavenly heralds. Or harbingers of doom. But  the meaning of the comet all depends on which side of the battle you're on. When Halley's comet appeared in the sky before the Battle of Hastings in 1066, William the Conqueror, who was to defeat the Anglo-Saxon armies and be crowned King of England, took the comet as God's promise of his victory. You can see the depiction of the comet in the Bayeaux Tapestry, commissioned by William to publicize his side of the story. But for the English and their king, Harold, slain on the battlefield, that comet was most definitely a sign of BAD times.
You can read more about comets in history and culture at
As for the portents signified by Comet Neowise now......???? 

The "Get Out!" column (or its alternate, the "Stay In!" column) is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Thursdays.

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