Focused on Mississippi: Comet Hunting

Focused on Mississippi

RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) – There is a comet in the Mississippi night sky. It doesn’t show up to the naked eye. If you have a decent camera, you can see it.

Like any good hunt for anything, most of your time is taken up in the preparation. And the more equipment you have, the more time it takes. I went to high school with Jerry Bowen, who lives in Flowood. Jerry is an avid amateur astronomer. So when something like a comet pops up, I try to tag along with Jerry. He has the stuff to point out where to look. 

It took us three nights to have any success. Well, to have any success photographing the comet. The first night was a dry run altogether. Jerry set up his generator, camera and computer. The program on the computer tells where the comet is at that moment. And that first night, it was right behind that bank of clouds. 

The second night, it was raining when I got off work. So I didn’t even try. I should have. Jerry got some great looking sunset shots that night. I mean, just because you are comet hunting doesn’t mean other things don’t some along.

I don’t know how comets used to scare folks in olden times. I don’t know how they ever saw them, except they didn’t have light pollution a thousand years ago like we do today.

But comets were always the harbingers of war and pestilence and uprisings. Of course, these things are going on all the time. So I think the comet is just an easy scapegoat.

Anyway, night three was a little more successful. Jerry set up his stuff and pointed out the NEOWISE comet for us. This one was way too dim for the video camera. So we took long exposures with the still cameras.

The comet will be closest to the earth in the middle of this week. It’s in the northwest sky between the Big Dipper and the Horizon. You will need a pair of binoculars to see the comet.

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