According to my family, I’ve been obsessed with NEOWISE, the comet currently zipping through our solar system. They’re right! After a failed attempted viewing outside of town at sunset, I went into my backyard at 4:00 one morning hoping to see it in the clear Wyoming sky, but couldn’t. Finally seeing NEOWISE at 9:42pm on a second evening outing didn’t end my obsession, though!
Since I don’t have the equipment to produce a stunning image like those that astrophotographers are posting, I didn’t even try to take a photo. Instead, I’ve posted an image of a scene from the Bayeux Tapestry. The comet depicted in it (Halley’s) doesn’t resemble what NEOWISE looked like to my eye, but I love the 11th century interpretation of what one looks like. I remember studying the Bayeux Tapestry in a college art history class back in the ’80s, and I also remember passing up the opportunity to view Halley’s comet through the lens of a telescope in 1986 when the astronomy department had viewing nights for students.
That’s probably why I’m obsessed — I regret not taking that opportunity to see a once-in-a-lifetime event. (I’ll be 97 if I live to see Halley’s the next time it swings by Earth in 2061. I’ll shoot for that!)
Back in the 11th century, people saw comets as harbingers of doom. Now in the 21st century, I don’t have to be like the medieval person cowering in fear (seen in the lower left of the Bayeux Tapestry image) at seeing the unknown, because I have scientific information and know comets are visitors from our universe’s past. NEOWISE last flew by Earth around 6,800 years ago! For me, to think that people so long ago in the Neolithic age may have seen what I did is mind-boggling! NEOWISE connects me to humans who lived under the same sky as me, millennia before my time, and knowing that gives me a bigger picture than my just my own place in this world.
I’ve seen NEOWISE several times, because the comet is now visible from my backyard! I’ll go out every night and gaze at the stars until I can’t see it anymore because I’m obsessed.