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| Last Updated:19/11/2020

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Comet NEOWISE offers a cosmic photo op (Source: The Hindu 24-07-2020)




               On Wednesday evening, two astrophotography enthusiasts in the State capital finally got the opportunity they were desperately waiting for. And the duo made sure they did not miss it. Fahd Bin Abdul Hasis and Kiran Mohan, scientists at the Indian Space Research Organisation’s Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) here, managed to take several snaps of the comet NEOWISE which is now bright enough in the July skies to be visible to the naked eye. Both Mr. Hasis and Mr. Mohan have a deep passion for astronomy and pursue astrophotography as a hobby. They had spent several mornings and evenings in July trying to catch a glimpse of the long-period comet. To skywatchers in Thiruvananthapuram, the comet is now visible to the northwest in the evening sky. When it was closer to the sun earlier in July, it was visible in the morning sky. But the cloudy monsoon skies over the State capital played spoilsport till Wednesday evening.


Like a fuzzy star


            “Moreover, COVID-19 prevented us from travelling elsewhere to attempt a viewing. So we waited till the sky over Eanikkara, near Karakulam, where we live, cleared. The comet was visible like a fuzzy star,” said Mr. Hasis. Between 7.30 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. on Wednesday, their long wait finally paid off. They managed to take several snaps of NEOWISE using a Nikon D5300 DSLR camera armed with a Tamron 70-300 telephoto lens and mounted on the star-tracker iOptron SkyGuider Pro.


            Comet NEOWISE was discovered on March 27, 2020 by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission. According to NASA, once the comet hurtles away into deep space, it will not be seen for another 6,800 years. It was expected to make its closest approach to earth on July 23. Though the comet is visible to the naked eye in July, its low position on the horizon when viewed from Thiruvananthapuram made photographing it a challenge.