A Bright Comet Graces the Morning Sky

by Dr. Danny R. Faulkner on July 8, 2020

On March 27, 2020, the space mission NEOWISE discovered a comet. Following the normal nomenclature, this comet was given the designation C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

At discovery, Comet NEOWISE was far too faint to be seen with the naked eye. By June 10, when the comet was being lost in the sun’s glare as seen from earth, Comet NEOWISE was still too faint to be visible without optical aid. However, as it approached perihelion (closest approach to the sun) on July 3, Comet NEOWISE brightened tremendously. The comet now is departing the sun and is visible in the early morning sky. On the morning of Wednesday, July 8, I managed to spot the comet in the light-polluted skies of suburban Cincinnati, even with a bright moon. Through binoculars it was an impressive sight. Comet NEOWISE had a bright coma, and I could trace the tail 2-3 degrees.


I also had my Nikon D3200 camera ready. Here is one of the photos that I took. For those who know photography, the ISO was 1600, the exposure was 2.5 seconds, and the lens setting was f/5.6, 55mm. The comet is along the upper left of the large tree, with the tail pointing upward, away from the sun. The bright star Capella is just left of top center. From my photograph, I estimate that the comet rivaled Capella in brightness. If so, then the comet has exceeded expectations for its brightness. I cropped and enlarged the original to get the second photo.

Neowise Enlarged

Here in northern Kentucky, the best view is 4:45–5:15 a.m. EDT (sunrise is at 6:20 a.m.). Earlier than that, the comet is too low in the sky; after that, the sky is getting too bright with approaching sunrise. For other locations, adjust accordingly. The best viewing ought to be about an hour and a half before sunrise. This website has a finder chart for the next week. After that, Comet NEOWISE emerges into the evening sky. It will be closest to earth on July 23. Usually, objects appear brightest when closest to the earth, but keep in mind that comets generally fade rapidly as they move away from the sun, which this comet has been doing since July 3. We’ll see what unfolds. If I can get additional photographs, I may post them.

This comet approached the sun with an orbital period of 4500 years. According to biblical chronology, the Flood was about 4500 years ago. Try looking for Comet NEOWISE and reflect on the possibility that Noah might have seen the same comet on its last pass through the inner solar system.

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