An eventful July in the Missouri outdoors

As a rule, my interest in scanning the horizon is centered on my historical hobby involving the forest lookout towers of Missouri and the search that took place for smoke and fires. 

However, in July I was searching the horizon myself for those treats that cruise in from time to time – comets.

In March, during the Neowise mission of the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) space telescope, a comet was discovered and since comets are usually named for those who found them, the Neowise Comet was up for study. 

Comets are notorious for getting hopes up. Both Atlas and Swan had not exactly lived up to billing recently.

However, by July Neowise had become visible to the naked eye. This was especially true in rural areas although binoculars were required in urban lighted locations. 

In mid-July viewing switched from morning to evening and it climbed each evening to a point by late July just below the Big Dipper. 

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Halley Comet
Halley’s Comet

On July 23rd it made its closest approach to earth (64 million miles) as it journeyed out of the inner solar system.

We have been treated to several nice comet shows recently. Hale-Bopp in 1997 put on a good display and, of course, Halley’s was visible in 1986. 

If you missed Neowise, you missed your chance for that one. It is estimated it won’t return for around  7,000 years but Halley’s is due back in 2061, and you never know when another show will appear.

If you missed it, here is a shot from an astronomer friend Gerry Donnellan. 

(Questions or comments? Bob Frakes can be reached by email at frakes2@ or by phone at 618-244-1642.)

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