Observation Log: Comet NEOWISE

After observing Comet NEOWISE last night from home via binoculars, I wanted to see what it looked like from somewhere with a darker sky. I headed out to Highway 1 and parked near Bean Hollow State Beach, in a gap in the fog layer, around sunset (8:27pm). The first visible “star” in the sky was Jupiter, easily resolvable in my binoculars.

By around 9:00pm it finally became dark enough to view the comet through my binoculars, although at this time the view was reminiscent of that from my apartment. I passed the time by looking at the Milky Way through Sagittarius and Scorpius, including likely observations of M6 and M7 (although I am hesitant to declare this for sure since I failed to note them in advance).

Within half an hour it finally became dark enough to view Comet NEOWISE properly. The comet’s coma was a bit above the rough midpoint of a line between ι and κ Ursae Majoris, forming a visually pleasing triangle. The tail visibly stretched nearly to 15 Ursae Majoris. Comet NEOWISE was clearly and beautifully visible via binoculars; it was faintly but distinctly visible unaided, making it my first naked-eye comet since Hale-Bopp, the Great Comet of 1997. I suspect it would have been easier to observe from a site that did not feature frequent headlights.

A swiftly advancing oceanic fog cut off observation at about 9:50pm. I drove north and took one last look about ten minutes later, at the junction of Highways 1 and 85. This site is poorly situated for observing due to both a streetlight and a hill obstructing the western view, but I was able to walk just far enough south along Highway 1 to get one last view of the comet.

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