Sketch of C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 18 July 2020
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Such a spectacular view. Both naked eye and through binoculars. Even though it hasn't qualified for 'great' comet status, it is large and a beautiful ornament to the night sky right now.

The sketch is a binocular view of the comet from July 18th. Compared to the naked eye view, the ion tail was very easy to spot through binoculars. The challenge for me is that the magnified view made it difficult to tell where the extent of both tails and the wider fan of the dust tail tapered off. It's just a very smooth fall-off.

The pseudonucleus was bright but soft/non-stellar. A fainter extension of the dust tail fanned away from the coma about 70 degrees to the main dust tail. The sketch shows a couple binocular fields worth of height for viewing that extent of the comet. Star field was traced via a print from Starry Night Pro so I could focus on field sketching the comet itself while running photography ops at the same time.

SubjectC/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)
ClassificationComet
Position (J2000)Virgo: [RA: 9 5.847 / Dec: 48° 4.510' ]*
MagnitudeNot estimated
Date/Time18 July 2020 - 9:00-10:00 PM MST (19 July 2020 - 0400-0500 UT)
Observing Loc.Robinson Crater, Arizona
Instrument15 x 70 Oberwerk Binoculars
ConditionsPartly cloudy, calm
SeeingNot estimated
TransparencyNot estimated
*ReferencesStarry Night Pro

...

The last ten days have been a flurry of comet adventures. Following are images from those days and finishing up with a naked eye sketch from last night. It's been a while since I've posted one of those.

The comet became more and more beautiful as it lofted into the dark evening sky. Once it was high enough to stay on display after twilight, its expansive dust tail became increasingly impressive. By last night, I was able to trace that out to about 17 degrees in length. The ion tail has been obvious through binoculars for a few days and last night I was also able to discern it by noting the dark notch between both tails. It doesn't appear as a thin beam visually, just as the left side of a darker wedge.

In order starting on July 8th:


C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 8 July 2020, 3:40AM MST / 1040UT
North of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 9 July 2020, 3:44AM MST / 1044UT
Wupakti National Monument, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 9 July 2020, 3:57AM MST / 1057UT
Wupakti National Monument, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 13 July 2020, 9:07PM MST / 0407UT
East of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 13 July 2020, 9:15PM MST / 0415UT
East of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 14 July 2020, 8:55PM MST / 0355UT
Southeast of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 15 July 2020, 9:54PM MST / 0454UT
West of Ash Fork, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 16 July 2020, 9:21PM MST / 0421UT
South of Ash Fork, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 17 July 2020, 10:54PM MST / 0554UT
West of Ash Fork, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 17 July 2020, 11:09PM MST / 0609UT
Milky Way view in opposite direction, West of Ash Fork, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 18 July 2020, 9:25PM MST / 0425UT
North of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
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C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 18 July 2020, 9:00-10:00PM MST / 0400-0500UT
Naked eye observation sketch, North of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
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...


C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 7 July 2020, 3:44AM MST / 1044UT
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There were no nearby clouds to contend with this morning and that permitted the view I was after with Merriam Crater. On any given day that old cinder cone is perfect—then catching it sharing the horizon with this graceful comet gets kind of goosebumpy for me.

I tried to see how long I could observe it visually with binoculars and was able to see it from 3:31-4:54AM—basically right on the horizon up to 13° at the end when the sun was 5° below the horizon. I was able to observe it naked eye, including the tail, up to the last 20 minutes or so.

Theta Auriga was conveniently 3° away for comparison, so naked eye the tail appeared about 1° in length. Through binoculars more like 2.5° long and photographically, about 3.5°. It kept its yellowish color up to the last 20 minutes or so when the sky was pretty bright and making it hard to detect. The pseudonucleus appeared more neutral in color and the tail had that bifurcation both visually through binoculars and photographically. I made a quick field sketch — first one I've done in a while — hopefully I can get that finished up & posted soon.

Photographically I think I'm picking up a hint of an ion tail very faintly just left of the curving dust tail. I need to work on some of the other magnified images to see if it's really there.

  • Image is from east of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA. 3:44AM MST/1044 UT.
  • The comet is 2° above horizon/sun is 16° below horizon.
  • Image comprised of 6 sequential exposures stacked and aligned to improve signal-to-noise ratio.
  • Canon EOS 6D Mark II, Canon EF 70-300mm lens at 130mm, f/5.0, 2 sec, ISO 6400.
SubjectC/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)
ClassificationComet
Position (J2000)Auriga: [RA: 6h 14.729 / Dec: 36° 24.904' ]*
MagnitudeNot estimated
Date/Time7 JULY 2020 - 3:31-4:54 AM MST (1031-1154 UT)
Observing Loc.Leupp Road, east of Flagstaff, Arizona, USA
Instrument15 x 70 Oberwerk Binoculars / naked eye / Canon 6D Mark II
ConditionsClear, twilight
SeeingNot estimated
TransparencyAstronomical through civil twilight
*ReferencesStarry Night Pro

...


C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 6 July 2020, 3:51AM MST / 1051UT
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Clouds put a really short timer on capturing comet-rise this morning. Between that and spending 10 minutes carefully maneuvering myself back out of a sketchy, unscouted road, I only managed a few shots before it ascended into the cloud field. I only had time for a very quick look and gasp through binoculars before I needed to start shooting lest I miss it before it hit the clouds. Moonlit Merriam Crater lies in the foreground for these shots. Leupp Road is shockingly busy in the 3:30AM time frame.


3:53AM MST / 1053UT
SubjectC/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)
ClassificationComet
Position (J2000)Auriga: [RA: 6 9.331 / Dec: 34° 49.206' ]*
MagnitudeNot estimated
Date/Time6 JULY 2020 - 3:50-4:13 AM MST (1050-1113 UT)
Observing Loc.Leupp Road, east of Flagstaff, Arizona
Instrument15 x 70 Oberwerk Binoculars / naked eye / Canon 6D Mark ii @ 120-220mm
ConditionsPartly cloudy, twilight
SeeingNot estimated
TransparencyAstronomical through nautical twilight
*ReferencesStarry Night Pro

...


C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) - 5 July 2020, 4:09AM MST / 1109UT
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I have a strong dislike of early mornings—but so worth it today because wow is that comet beautiful! C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) I was at Sunset Crater by 4AM. It was an easy naked-eye object, but really rewarding through binoculars. Last pic is closest to naked eye scale.


4:12AM MST / 1112UT

4:15AM MST / 1115UT
SubjectC/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)
ClassificationComet
Position (J2000)Auriga: [RA: 6 4.989 / Dec: 33° 12.484' ]*
MagnitudeNot estimated
Date/Time5 JULY 2020 - 4:00-4:30 AM MST (1100-1130 UT)
Observing Loc.Cinder Hills Overlook, Sunset Crater, Arizona
Instrument15 x 70 Oberwerk Binoculars / naked eye / Canon 6D Mark ii @ 300mm
ConditionsClear, twilight
SeeingNot estimated
TransparencyNautical Twilight
*ReferencesStarry Night Pro

...

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