Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—VIII

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) is growing dimmer in the evening sky although is still visible in binoculars. Longer exposures are now necessary to reveal the fan-shaped tail.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) in the evening sky.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) in the evening sky.
Comets C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) and C/2017 T2 (PANTARRS).
Comets C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) and C/2017 T2 (PANTARRS).

The second image is a wider view that shows that Comet C/2017 T2 (PANSTARRS) is also visible albeit very small and faint. M53, a globular cluster, and M64, a spiral galaxy, are also visible and labeled. A full-size version of this image (6016 x 4016 px, 2.7 MB) is also available.

These images are a stack of five images each 120 seconds at ƒ/4, 85mm, and ISO 400. The shooting location was Sunset Crater National Monument, an International Dark Sky Park.

Lightning at Sunset

It’s been a challenging season for storm photography. First was a late start to the North American Monsoon. And, then, just as it was finally ramping up it shut down quickly. Current model forecasts suggest at least another week until it ramps up again.

This storm eventually produced lightning after sunset.
This storm eventually produced lightning after sunset.
Sunset and lightning north of Sedona.
Sunset and lightning north of Sedona.
Evening twilight colors and lightning.
Evening twilight colors and lightning.

A bit of moisture managed to produce some thunderstorms right around sunset. And there was enough lightning to make it worthwhile to be there and get some photographs.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—VII

The waxing Moon is getting brighter in the evening sky and this makes it more difficult to see Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE). In fact, I was unable to see it with the unaided eye but both binoculars and long-exposure photographs easily brought out the comet.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.

On the other hand, the presence of the first-quarter Moon illuminates the inner canyon while the comet is faintly visible above.

The image is a composite. The first image is on a fixed tripod to get a sharp result of the moonlit canyon. The second image is on a tracker to get sharp points for the stars and comet. The two images are then combined. Camera settings are 24mm, ƒ/4, 120 seconds, ISO 400.

Thunderstorm with lightning near Grand Canyon.
Thunderstorm with lightning near Grand Canyon.

As a bonus, a late evening thunderstorm developed just west of Page and moved to the northeast while producing a lot of lightning. Although no cloud-to-ground strokes were noted, the lightning easily illuminated the cloud from the inside.

Sunset with crepuscular rays over Grand Canyon.
Sunset with crepuscular rays over Grand Canyon.

Second bonus: there was a nice sunset, too.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—VI

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) remains visible in the northwest sky after sunset. It is slowly diminishing in brightness (current estimated magnitude of +2.8) and the waxing crescent Moon is making it harder to see the fainter portions of the tail.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.
Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) above Grand Canyon.

These images overlook Grand Canyon and show the comet above the North Rim and Kaibab Plateau.

Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE)—V

The comet continues to climb higher in the northwestern sky after sunset and the tail now stretches across 20–25° of sky. Clouds the past few days have thwarted my efforts to get images but I got a lucky break in the clouds last night (21 July 2020). I had to do a bit of last-minute changes for a location and found myself at the Cultural Park in Sedona, Arizona. I was not alone. There were several groups of people enjoying the cometary show.

Ion and dust trails from Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).
Ion and dust trails from Comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE).

The image was taken with a Nikon 85mm lens, ƒ/2.8, and ISO 400. Four images of 120 seconds were stacked using Deep Sky Stacker. Post processing was done in Lightroom.

Notable in the image are the thin ion trail and the brighter and wider dust trail. Visible in the dust trail are striae, also known as synchronic bands. There are also some minor undulations in the ion tail.