NEOWISE & Fireflies (part three)

Friday was a great evening to observe the comet. The skies were clear and people were excited about going out. A few people from the Columbus Astronomical Society (CAS) and OSU Astronomy came out to Delaware Dam and set up physically distant, individual telescopes and tripods. The event also drew out the public, with many different groups of people there to see NEOWISE with their own naked eyes. A chorus of voices, involved in their own distinct conversations, was amplified and guided by the curvature of the earthen portion of the dam and into the field. I never imagined how much I would miss that sound.

Additional Image Credit: Mark E. Peter

I wanted to take a longer exposure image that showed the comet’s two tails.

Comets are big, dirty, ice balls. As the comet approaches the Sun, the Sun’s heat warms the comet, vaporizing some of it’s material and releasing dust particles that were frozen inside.

The more visible tail is caused by the solar wind pushing dust away from the comet. This tail is similar in color to the comet itself and curves along the comet’s orbit.

The ion tail is caused by solar radiation ionizing particles around the comet. These charged particles are then carried along the surrounding magnetic field, directed along a straight path outward from the sun. The ion tail typically glows with a bluish hue.

My exposure time was not long enough to capture the rich, bluish color of the ion tail but the tail itself is clearly visible.

I also decided to try my hand at combining the breathtaking comet with the mesmerizing firefly show. This was the result.