My friend Catherine is neowiser than I, so I always say yes to the adventures she proposes.
Take Thursday night, for example.
She asked me if I wanted to go shoot pictures of a comet and I said”Yes!” She suggested we leave at 9:30 and head to Plamann Park and I said “Perfect!”
Then, I readied my camera bag, bid my family adieu and headed off (even though I had absolutely no idea what Catherine was talking about).
We stood behind a baseball field in a dark corner of the park for a little while, chatting and hoping the occupants of the only other parked car in the area were similarly cosmically focused (because it would have been pretty awkward for all of us if they weren’t.)
Catherine had sent me a text earlier with some specific tips about finding the comet by first locating the Big Dipper and then scanning down and slightly right toward the horizon.
We spotted the Big Dipper immediately and then I trailed my eyes as instructed while Catherine set up her tripod. I figured I’d stare in that general direction until she located the actual comet and then I’d enthusiastically agree that it was very cool while secretly waiting for her to show me her pictures so I could see what all the fuss was about.
Miraculously, though, I spotted the darn thing.
“I think I see it,” I said. “If you look through the top square of the backstop to that area of the sky you can see a streak that looks like it might be a comet.”
“That’s it!” she exclaimed.
My eyesight is so terrible I have misidentified my own relatives from scant distances away, and my knowledge of the night sky is limited to the two dippers and a million wish-upon-stars (which frequently turn out to be airplanes). So, I was genuinely shocked to find myself watching a real comet dance. Dazed, I gave it a little wave.
Meanwhile, Catherine snapped away.
I told her I’d let her shoot the comet, and I’d take pictures of the astronomer. However, it was so dark out there that I couldn’t even do that because I didn’t want a flash from my camera to mess up the important work of hers.
So, I just stood back and enjoyed the evening.
I have since learned that Comet Neowise is a speedy little devil, covering 40 miles per second or 144,000 mph. It won’t be coming back this way for another 6,800 years.
So, I’m glad I had the chance to take a peek with my naked eyes, and to see Catherine’s excellent photos and to spend another cool night with my friend.