I went looking for a comet last week. Didn’t have much luck.
Armed with my Sky Guide app and a telescope, I met up with three nieces at the Bonnabel Boat Launch on Lake Pontchartrain. Just a quick aside — the Bonnabel Boat Launch is just a few blocks from where I grew up. It has expanded quite a bit from the days when I used to run down there, looking for slate to skim on the typically placid lake.
While there were more people hanging out than I expected to see, we still had a clear view of the northwest sky. That’s where the Sky Guide app said to look for Comet NEOWISE. It came closest to Earth on July 22, and just a week or so had passed from that date, so I figured we should have had a pretty good shot at seeing it.
Except…we discovered the telescope was missing a critical component: the eyepiece. We were trying to look at Jupiter and Saturn, which were visible in the eastern sky. But without that additional lens, all we could see in the viewer were two dots, on a much smaller tableau.
The fair amount of light pollution in the New Orleans atmosphere, and my aging eyes, didn’t bode well for my chances of seeing it unassisted. My nieces thought they caught glimpses of it with their naked eyes. When I looked where they indicated, I think all I saw was a floater.
Having read War and Peace this year, where the Comet of 1812 plays a pivotal part in Pierre Bezukov’s epiphany, I took the Comet of 2020 to be a sign of some sort of modern-day pivot. What kind of pivot, I don’t know. And I wanted to see it while I still could.
Instead, I witnessed a beautiful sunset (pictured above) over the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, with three of my most favorite and beloved people. I’d be good with more of those sort of pivots.