A Bright Comet in the Dawn

We have a bright comet in the dawn sky for a few days. Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE has brightened rapidly over the past few weeks, now about 1st magnitude it can just be seen against the glow of dawn.

Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE against the dawn
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE against the dawn

I took along Hodepodge to serve as a tracking mount for the TV-76mm scope and a couple cameras to do some comet shooting. The Canon 6D would go with the small ‘scope, the EOS-M5 with a tripod for wide angle shots.

Driving up Waikoloa road I was troubled by a bank of clouds in the Waimea saddle, thus I elected to head for the Humuʻula saddle instead. I ended up in the lava fields along the Mauna Loa access road. The view was perfect, and I had just enough time to get the mount and camera setup as the comet rose.

I picked up the comet with binoculars, a very pretty sight as it rose in the growing glow of dawn. For a few minutes I just enjoyed the view.

Shooting a comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE in the Humuʻula Saddle
Shooting a comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE in the Humuʻula Saddle

The comet was just barely visible without optical aid as it is in the glow of dawn. With binoculars it is quite pretty, about 2° of tail visible straight up from the rising Sun. The scene was much the same in the TV-76mm, with some detail visible in the tail. The center of the tail seems darker, perhaps shadowed by the thick inner coma?

The morning was absolutely beautiful, even without a bright comet in the sky. The lava fields along the Mauna Loa access road are one of my favorite places on the island. After shooting the comet I drove back via the old Saddle Road hoping to find some Pueo to shoot, but did not see a single owl. I did put the drone up for a flight just after sunrise. A great morning, worth setting that alarm clock for.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i.

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