Members have enjoyed several opportunities for astronomical events in July: the penumbral lunar eclipse; a conjunction of Moon, Jupiter, and Saturn; and most recently the apparition of Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE.
C/2020 F3 presented special challenges for observing and imaging as it showed up very low to the horizon rising ahead of Sun — not much more than 10º before morning twilight wiped it out. July’s weather around the apparition grudgingly cooperated with relatively clear night skies tarnished with a hazy atmosphere and bright Moon to light it.
Still, how many comets do we see in one lifetime? There was considerable enthusiasm around observing this one. The comet was expected to be visible in the morning sky until July 11 after which, according to NASA, C/2020 F3 can be fished out of evening twilight until mid-August. The nucleus or “head” of the comet is reportedly unusually large. NASA’s NEOWISE spacecraft suggest that the comet’s core of ice and dust is 5 km wide. This bodes well for the comet’s visibility in the weeks ahead when it becomes an early nighttime object.
Observers and photographers report the object was not visible to the unaided eye, given conditions. Binoculars, telescopes, and even modest telephoto lenses were able to fish C/2020 F3 out of our Northeastern Ohio atmospheric murk.
Various locations and various times provide differing views of the sky in general and this object in particular.
Jon Salontay writes, “Got up Thursday and this morning (Friday) to view from my front driveway in Brunswick. We are at 1,125 ft., higher than most of the surrounding area, but there a lot of trees. I was too late Thursday (5 a.m.) as the sky was already too bright. This morning was a different story. Started a 4:30 a.m. Venus was shining brightly, so I knew it was clear. The comet was easy to find and a nice sight in 10×50 binoculars. Following Capella to Menkalinan and downward made spotting the comet easy. I could make out a trace of it naked-eye, but only because I knew exactly where to look. Got some photos with my Canon Rebel T5i with a 55-250 F 5.6 zoom lens on a tripod. Used ISO 800, 4 seconds at F/5. I’ve attached the best of them, with close cropping.”
We will add to this gallery as submissions are received or images updated.