Searching for Comets

For the first time in recorded history, Comet NEOWISE is visiting the inner solar system solar system. The last time it was here, streaking through the Earth’s skies in the year 4745 BCE, in the midst of the Neolithic period.

I’ve seen a number of comets in my life — Halley, in 1986; Hale-Bopp in 1997 — and I’m excited to see NEOWISE.

My Meade reflecting telescope, ready for stellar observations
My Meade reflecting telescope

Unfortunately, I have thus far had no luck.

Last night seemed like it would be promising, but there was a problem near sunset. We had a lovely sunset in central Pennsylvania.

A fiery sunset and salmon colored clouds looking west northwest at sunset
Looking west northwest across Orchard Street at sunset

I set up my telescope, I brought over a lawn chair to sit and wait for the sky to darken — and wait for the clouds to move off.

Unfortunately, more clouds moved in.

The light is fading but the clouds are growing over Yoe after sunset
Looking west northwest across Orchard Street, twenty minutes after sunet

Very pretty, very evocative, and completely inhibiting my ability to see Comet NEOWISE.

I waited for the stars to come out. I knew to look beneath the bowl of the Big Dipper, but by the point the handle of the Big Dipper was visible the cloud cover was so thick along the horizon and the northwestern skies that the bowl of the Big Dipper was impossible to see. The Big Dipper, for the record, would have been above the warehouse on the right hand side of the photo, across Orchard Street. Comet NEOWISE, then, should have been above the building.

I waited outside a long time. Eventually, I gave up. The clouds never cleared off. If anything, they became thicker. Few stars were out last night.

Night has fallen above Orchard Street, but neither stars nor Comet NEOWISE can be seen through the cloud cover.
No stars in the skies above Orchard Street

I’ll try it again tonight. It’s possible that, with my eye issues, I won’t be able to see the comet unaided. But I have binoculars, I have my telescope, and at some point, I am going to see this comet before it’s gone for another 6700 years.

Published by Allyn Gibson

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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