The photographer lime-de-fonnier Alexandre Dell’Olivo is still amazed. Since the beginning of the week, her nights have been short. Every day, he gets up before dawn to observe Comet Neowise … with the naked eye.
“Being able to observe a comet with the naked eye is an exceptional phenomenon, it has only happened to me three times in my life,” confides the one who willingly accepts the qualifier of “comet hunter”.
The first time, he was 19 years old when Hale Bopp crossed the Swiss sky, in 1997. Before seeing the second, he had to wait ten years. “It was in South America, where I observed MC Naught, the brightest in 40 years, a monster that was called the comet of the century.”
Amateurs find information on specialized sites that reference the new comets discovered. “When we announce one of promising, that is to say which will be bright, we can calculate the orbits to know where it will pass. I also use Stellarium software, a sky map that allows us to follow the currents and anticipate movements. ”
The whims of the hair
But nothing is ever certain. “You have to reckon with the whims of the hairy stars,” laughs Alexandre Dell’Olivo. “When a comet passes too close to the sun, there is a risk of fragmentation. And there is only a trail of dust left ”. This is what happened twice this spring before the arrival of Neowise. “Before reaching the perihelion (its point closest to the sun), it was already visible in the southern hemisphere, the comet hunters on the other side of the hemisphere were gnawing their brakes!”
Currently visible around 4 a.m., Neowise will appear earlier and earlier on the northeast horizon. “From July 10 or 12, we can even see it in the evening, if the weather is nice.” To observe, from any point where there is a clear horizon on the northeast side.