A Fleeting Wonder of Our Time

Last evening, we traveled about 30 miles to capture a glimpse of a rare, and transient, celestial neighbor, Comet NEOWISE, a mere 64 million miles away. For three hours, I stood on the side of the road in the Litchfield Hills next to a giant cornfield, accompanied by the pungent smells of healthy manure and noxious bug repellent. Photographers, it seems, will do anything for their art. And it was worth it!

It was a perfect night – dark, quiet, natural beauty everywhere you looked. It was a little cloudy, but as the sky darkened to a deeper blue, the stars started to appear (that’s a good sign.) The rough coordinates for a non-scientific person like me were: Look in the NorthWest sky, below the Big Dipper. I searched, but didn’t see anything. But before my disappointment could set in, my husband said “Start taking photos. You just might see it”. Aaaah…He was right!

Thanks to the power of my camera, I was able to capture this truly once-in-a-lifetime event. NEOWISE is estimated to return around the year 8,786! This really defines the saying, “It’s now or never”. As grand as the view above, small wonders on earth also abound. If you look closely you can see the flight of a firefly through the cornfield.

Some interesting info on Comet C/2020 F3, otherwise known as NEOWISE. It was only recently discovered on March 27, 2020. Like most comets, it is named for its discoverer – The Near Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer – a space observatory 326 miles above Earth’s surface launched by NASA in 2009. 

We live in a wonderful time in history. Our technology can locate a frozen mass of debris hurtling through deep space. Difficult to see with the naked eye, we can capture this natural wonder with cameras, telescopes and even binoculars. And then we can share this special moment in a few seconds so that everyone all over the earth can enjoy the same spectacle.

My advice is simple – Enjoy the moments you are here. Use your camera to capture them. Share them with the world. You never know whose hearts you will touch or whose imagination you might inspire. We can make this planet a magnificent place.