In Search Of NEOWISE
After deciding not to wait another 6,800 years to catch a glimpse of comet NEOWISE, we recently took a quick road trip to the local mountains. To escape San Diego's persistent marine layer and light pollution we packed a picnic and made the 90-minute late afternoon drive through beautiful east county up Palomar Mountain. With more than 20 hairpin turns over a distance of less than 7 miles, the mountain portion of the drive was an adventure in itself.
We climbed to 5,440 feet, above the low clouds that blanketed the valley (see above), and were happy to discover west-facing Boucher Lookout about 45 minutes before sunset. As we settled in, about two dozen other friendly comet-seekers converged in the area, respectful of each others' space and desire to have a "safe" experience. At sunset we were treated to this amazing western view (below). To the north you can see Lake Elsinore.
(Click to Enlarge Photos)
Long after twilight faded, the faint comet finally appeared high off the horizon in the northwest sky. But even from here the humidity and light pollution from the L.A. basin diminished the view. Those without binoculars or telescopes struggled to see the muted streak of light, but the camera was able to capture a lot of detail missed by the naked eye.
By contrast, 180 degrees to the east the desert sky was dark and clear. The Milky Way and Jupiter (big planet to the right of the tower) shined bright (below).
Palomar Mountain proved to be a good but not "great" place to view the comet, but it provided a convenient and very satisfying half-day adventure. And with just a few days left to view before comet NEOWISE heads off into the depths of space, this was a fun option. For a clearer view, any desert skies away from city lights with a view of the western horizon would be better. Anza-Borrego Desert or Joshua Tree National Park come to mind.
J.T. MacMillan is a long-time San Diego-based photographer who got his start in metro-newspaper work and has been providing editorial, commercial, portrait and event photography services to some of San Diego’s most recognized public and private agencies for 27 years. To learn more and see other samples of our work click on the links below:
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Wow that shot of the comet is surprisingly detailed considering it wasn't shot through a dedicated telescope. Gotta love that hazy sunset and twinkling night sky too.
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