In a time of pandemic and crisis across the nation, the heavens provided a welcome break in the form of comet NEOWISE this summer. It has shown that despite lockdowns and limited forms of entertainment due to COVID-19, there still are good, old-fashioned ways to pass the time and bond as a family.
In case you haven’t followed the news, the comet, officially known as C/2020 F3, was discovered March 27 by NEOWISE, a mission using a NASA space telescope to look at near-Earth objects (NEOs) such as asteroids and comets, according to the space agency’s website, https://www.nasa.gov.
Although the comet is visible to some with just the eye as a smear on the northwestern sky, just under the Big Dipper constellation, binoculars or a telescope should catch the image more clearly for viewers, according to astronomers.
An easy way to find the comet is to look for the bottom left star of the Big Dipper constellation and go straight down about halfway to the horizon, according to Enid photographer Patrick Wine, who recently shared some images he photographed of the comet with the News & Eagle.
The comet will be moving higher in the sky each night while it is visible, which astronomers say should be until the end of the month. However, the comet will be closest to Earth tonight through Thursday, according to earthsky.org. It will pass at some 64 million miles away.
The forecast from the National Weather Service calls for mostly clear skies tonight and partly cloudy skies on Wednesday night.
We encourage you to get out and see the comet, which astronomers say will not return for another 6,800 years.
It shouldn’t take a 6,800-year event to get residents out into nature to take advantage of the waning days of summer break. There are plenty of sites to see around our great state.
Even during a time of pandemic, one can visit state parks and scenic trails to view wildlife, birds, flora and fauna that make up the uniqueness of Oklahoma.
In fact, while COVID-19 has some places locked down and other activities shut down, as long as you keep your social distance, and when appropriate wear masks, there is no reason not to take advantage of some fascinating day trips around our state and the universe.
Make up a scavenger hunt game, or teach your children the constellations. Some places to take day trips at in the Enid area include Salt Plains National Wildlife Reserve, where you can view different migrating birds or dig salt crystals; Tallgrass Prairie north of Pawhuska, where you can see buffalo while driving the preserve’s trail loop; Roman Nose State park, where there are scenic lakes and bluffs.
Whatever you choose, make sure to take plenty of sunscreen and lots of water, as the dog days of summer can be hot ones.
This summer may not have turned out the way many would have wanted, but there’s still time to make memories.