Over the past month, comet Neowise has graced the skies around the world. Traveling at about 40 miles per second, 64 million miles from Earth, star gazers could see the interstellar phenomenon with their naked eye. In North America, the perfect time to see this once every 6,766 years event shifts from just before sunrise to just after sunset. As an avid stargazer myself, I have spent countless hours researching the best places, times and methods to see the comet.
First, I had to find the exact location of Neowise in the night sky. So, I downloaded an application to my phone that shows celestial bodies wherever the user is. It also has a feature that says when the object will rise, transition and set while also providing an accurate location for optimal viewing. Called SkySafari, I made great use of this application in making sure that I had a clear view of the sky in the exact location the comet would be.
As I drove around my town, trying to find a place far enough away from city lights to see the stars, I realized I had made a wrong turn and was subsequently lost. I knew that there was a bridge somewhere that could get me back on the correct path, so I drove very slowly down a state highway trying to spot the rocky, winding road that could get me back. I spotted one such formation, and took the chance that it was the correct way. Thankfully, it was and I was able to park my car on the shoulder, free from city lights that overshadowed the magnificent view of the stars.
As one could guess, I am what my mother has lovingly dubbed “directionally challenged,” so I downloaded a compass onto my phone to find the correct direction I was supposed to be looking.
At the time, comet Neowise was in the northwest part of the sky, so I opened my application, turned in the correct direction, and was greeted by an abundance of thick, grey clouds rolling into my line of sight. I sat patiently inside my car, waiting and praying for the clouds to pass by before the comet arrived, with no success.
There was a patch of sky that was clear for the comet to pass through, but according to SkySafari, Neowise would be passing directly through the portion of sky covered by those invading clouds. Sitting patiently in my car, I waited until the sun was just on the horizon, hoping the application was wrong and I would still be able to see the comet, but it was inevitable. Disappointed, I turned to go home and planned to rise early in the morning to see if I could still catch this rare sight.
That morning there was a dense fog covering the ground that obscured even the sun. I wish I could say this was a one time occurrence, but these events have been the story of my life for the past month. Every chance I have to try and see this comet, the clouds roll in and I am left bereft of the magnificent sighting.
Even though I feel disappointed that I might not ever be able to see the comet, I have left from my adventure with humorous stories about getting lost and having random strangers ask whether I need help. As I said before, the best spot in my town to view the stars is on the shoulder of a state highway. Walking around with my phone out while sighing towards the sky is a good way of looking lost. Numerous vehicles have pulled over to check on me. After I say that I’m fine and that I’m just looking for a comet, they laugh and drive away. One day, this happened three times in the span of 30 minutes. At least I gave those nice people a story of their own.
As the comet makes its way out of our night skies, I plan on continuing my efforts to witness this once in a lifetime event. If the clouds keep rolling in, that’s fine. At least I will be able to say that I tried.