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In Search of Neowise: A Comet Visible During July Will Vanish for 6,800 Years

©Fran Montes

Join ReachExtra photographer Fran Montes on his journey through the mountains of Estepona in search of Comet Neowise, a comet which, after July, will not be seen for another 6,800 years.

Comet C / 2020 F3, or better known as “Neowise”, named after the telescope which discovered it in March this year, could be seen soaring through the skies during early July, just before dawn, and as from July 15 it could be seen at dusk.

Fran Montes prepares his camera | ©Fran Montes

It was certainly a unique opportunity for photographers and those interested in astrology. So, equipped with my camera, I decided to head out into the hills in search of Neowise – to capture the comet which will not be seen again after this month for another 6,800 years.

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The Spirit of Christmas

The Spirit of Christmas is an online recording replacing the Christmas Festival fo Lights. It has been produced on behalf of GCS by GAMPA and GibMedia and the Gibraltar Electiricity Authority. Don't miss this Friday at 7pm on GBC TV and GCS Facebook! #gibraltarculturalservices Gibraltar Electricity Authority GBC Gibmedia #GAMPA #vistigibraltar

Posted by Gibraltar Cultural Services on Monday, 16 November 2020

To see it with the naked eye, you only need to travel to an area with as little light pollution as possible, and where the horizon is not obstructed by obstacles. This is because the comet can be seen under the Big Dipper, which was close to the horizon.

Comet Neowise Estepona Spain Campo de Gibraltar Cadiz
©Fran Montes

After some time of scouting out locations with the least light pollution and a clear, uninterrupted shot of the horizon, I decided to ascend the “Los Reales de Sierra Bermeja”, which is in Estepona and famous for its abundance of “Pinsapo” trees, also known as Spanish Firs.

From this open sky vantagepoint, with views of the Costa del Sol, Gibraltar and even Africa in the West, one can get a sense of the true vastness of the night sky and how small we are.

Comet Neowise Estepona Spain Campo de Gibraltar Cadiz
©Fran Montes

On exiting the car park, you can walk up to the large antennas at the top of the mountain, and from here you’ll see the northernmost region of the mountain range where you will make out Gaucín, Jubrique and Genalguacil among other towns.

Equipped with a compass and a star map to find out the exact location of the comet, all I needed to do was wait for the sun to dip behind the horizon; when the first twinkles of stars are visible at dusk. This was not without some trepidation, because a haze had covered the entire horizon and I was unsure as to whether I was going to be able to see Neowise.

Comet Neowise Estepona Spain Campo de Gibraltar Cadiz
©Fran Montes

At this point, the naked eye can slightly make out the tail of the comet, or nebula, which, when shot through the lens of my camera, was absolutely dazzling underneath the Big Dipper. It was just a matter of framing, focussing, adjusting the exposure time, ISO and aperture and the results were amazing.

I sat back and enjoyed flicking through the shot’s I’d captured and witnessing this beautiful spectacle of starts and mountains which were accompanied by two large antennas that filled the sky of Estepona.

Comet Neowise Estepona Spain Campo de Gibraltar Cadiz
©Fran Montes

You’ll be able to witness this magnificent spectacle of nature with your eyes alone in the right place during the month of July, with tonight (22.07.2020) being the most visible, although I’d recommend you bring a pair of binoculars or a telescope to really experience it.

What do you think?