This photo courtesy of James Younger shows the comet NEOWISE over Island View Beach. (James Younger/Submitted)

Rare comet dazzles night sky over Saanich Peninsula

Comet NEOWISE is passing Earth for the first time in 7,000 years

As an avid astro-photographer for more than 12 years, James Younger of Central Saanich is more than familiar when it comes to being up at late hours to get the right shots.

But as Younger prepares to spend many hours in the coming days and weeks to capture the comet NEOWISE with his camera, he is far from complaining, especially, if that opportunity comes around only every 7,000 years or so.

The comet has become increasingly visible in northern latitudes and Younger went down to the beach in Island View Park in the early morning hours of Monday (July 13) to take some of the very first pictures of the comet appearing over the Saanich Peninsula’s sky, as it become visible here.

“I found this celestial event awe-inspiring,” he said. “I have photographed lunar eclipses, solar eclipses, auroras, and I have found that this was the most excited I have been for a long time.”

For one, NEOWISE is the biggest comet that he has seen and photographed. It is also something that appears in the sky without any run-up. “For an aurora, you can go out, wait all night and nothing will happen,” he said. “For this, as soon as you got down to the beach, you can see it as plain as day.”

This visibility will only increase as the comet gets closer to Earth with astronomers identifying July 22-23 as the day when the two celestial bodies will be closest to each other, with the comet passing at a distance of some 103 million kilometres, according to earthsky.org.

RELATED: Photographer captures Perseid meteor shower over Shuswap

It will also get much darker as the moon’s luminescence decreases, said Younger. “We are currently at 75 per cent, but as the moon gets down to zero, it’s going to be much darker and the tail should also be brighter and bigger. So it should get better over the next two weeks.”

What also makes the comet special is its relative sudden appearance. Modern-day astronomers (and the rest of humanity along with them) generally know well in advance when comets pass through the solar system. But astronomers only discovered NEOWISE on March 27. “This one came on really, really, really fast. No one knew it was going to happen,” he said.

In other words, it literally came out of the dark, and it won’t reappear again for another 7,000 years. To put this into historical context, the last time NEOWISE appeared in the sky, humans living in the Middle East had just entered the Neolithic age characterized by the domestication of animals, the emergence of settled communities and increasingly sophisticated societal structures, with the proviso that the rest of humanity were still largely living as hunters and gatherers as they had done for tens of thousands of years before. Familiar monumental pieces of architecture from this Neolithic period such as Stonehenge, as well as the pyramids in Egypt and Mesoamerica would not appear for several thousand years.

In other words, watching this comet represents a once-in-a-civilization moment and Younger encourages others to take advantage of the opportunity.

“It’s awe-inspiring,” he said. “It’s really quite breathtaking.”


Like us on Facebook and follow @wolfgang_depner

wolfgang.depner@peninsulanewsreview.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘I’ve fallen through the cracks’: Victoria woman calls herself new face of homelessness

Tonya Alton has had to move almost ten times since a ‘wrongful eviction’ in March

View Royal teen inspired by pandemic creates thermal camera from scratch

14-year-old plans to make 10 touchless hand sanitizers for schools

Missing python found under vehicle in Victoria

The snake was located more than six kilometres from where it went missing

20-storey hotel proposed for downtown Victoria

Wintergarden Hotel proposed for block of Blanshard Street between Fort and View streets

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Most Read