NEOWISE Comet once-in-a-lifetime event for Island stargazers

NEOWISE Comet once-in-a-lifetime event for Island stargazers
WatchThe stars have aligned as the NEOWISE Comet streaks through the night sky, visible to the naked eye. Tess van Straaten reports.

Victoria’s James Younger is an avid photographer with a big following of stargazers from all over Canada and beyond.

“I have astronomers from around the world on my Facebook page, most notably the head of astronomy at the University of Brazil who discovers galaxies!” Younger says.

Younger’s been doing night photography for 12 years — from meteors, lunar eclipses and the aurora borealis to a once-in-a-lifetime comet.

“When I went down to the beach that first night, three or four nights ago, I was astounded at how beautiful it was!” says Younger.

The NEOWISE comet — discovered by NASA’s Neo-wise infrared space telescope in March — is streaking through the sky on a nightly basis.

“It’s really proving to be the astronomical event of the year,” says Dominion Astrophysical Observatory director James Di Francesco.

Vancouver Islanders are snapping stunning pictures of the comet — from Mount Tolmie and Mount Doug in Greater, Mt. Tzouhalem in the Cowichan Valley, beaches across the Island and even rural backyards after the stars aligned to make the comet the brightest one we’ve seen in more than two decades.

“It’s very exciting, this is something that doesn’t happen very often,” Di Francesco explains. “I don’t think we’ve had a comet of this brightness since Hale-Bopp back in the late 90s.”

Comet NEOWISE viewing tips 

NEOWISE is visible with the naked eye and it’s not hard to find a place view it.

You just need be in a dark area, away from city lights with a clear view of the northern horizon — and your best bet is waiting until after 11 p.m.

“You can see it all night long after it’s dark,” Younger advises. “But it’s moving very, very fast across the sky.”

The comet will reach its closet point to earth — about 100 million kilometres away — July 23rd and the next seven to 10 days are the best chance to see.

“Every day it moves further away from the sun and as a result, it’s brightness begins to dim,”Di Francesco says. “But at the same time, it’s going to be more visible higher in the sky in the next week or so.”

So enjoy it while you can, because the NEOWISE Comet won’t be back for about 7,000 years.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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