NEOWISE comet a rare sight to see for Calgarians

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The director at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory just outside of Calgary says Calgarians shouldn’t waste the chance to see the comet NEOWISE.

“Comets are notoriously difficult to see,” said Phil Langill, noting the last time a comet could be seen in the city was nearly 40 years ago when the comet Hale-Bopp was visible.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see something as cool as this. It’s pretty rare,” Langill said.

Comets are giant balls of ice that move rapidly around the sun. As the comet moves closer to the sun, it begins to evaporate and when that happens, a cloud begins to form around it and a long tail can be seen behind it.

“There’s a whole bunch of variables that are going on that nine times out of 10 prevent us from seeing comets, but everything is working really, really well right now,” Langill said.

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READ MORE: How to see the ‘once a decade’ comet NEOWISE in Canada 

Comets aren’t typically visible with the naked eye but NEOWISE is and that has had many professional and amateur photographers in Calgary snapping pictures of the celestial phenomenon.

“We’re so lucky to be able to observe it in these times,” said professional photographer Christy Turner.

“It won’t be back for 6,800 years, so I’m getting out as much as I can.”

Turner had snapped some stunning images of NEOWISE and said she has seen other snapshots from amateurs using much less expensive gear than hers.

“People have been able to pick it up with some of the more sophisticated camera phones that have night settings,” Turner said. “And if for no other reason, just go to see it with your naked eye because it is such a cool phenomenon.”

Turner recommends heading out after midnight and finding a clear open space to catch the best shots of NEOWISE. The comet can be found low in the northern sky just above the horizon.

NEOWISE will be visible in the night skies for another seven to 10 days.

“Really this is a once-in-a-lifetime thing and if they (Calgarians) miss it, you know, this could be it,” Langill said.

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