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A Comet for all Seasons
On the significance of being insignificant
Robert Huttinger

On Monday the 13th of July 2020, I remembered that there was a to-do item on my itemized list of things to check, that still needed some work. July was the month of the comet Neowise, a stellar body that orbits earth every 6800 years, and coincidentially, it so happens, that the comet chose the summer of 2020 to make its rare appearance.

Comets have historically always had a significant reason to show up. Throughout human civilisation they were usually looked at as harbringers of death and pestilence. And this one is no different, although late to the party in times of infectious respiratory disease Covid-19 Sars2 haunting human brilliance and grounding global civilisation.

Having reflected on the necessary points, and checked the time and location the comet would show up in the nightsky, I made my way up to the top of the city, equipped with binoculars, full frame body, tele lens and tripod and kept looking for Neowise.

After having found the perfect viewing spot near the medieval stairs, facing north western direction, I scanned the sky with my binoculars and quickly found a faint streak of light glittering atop a church tower. Tripod and camera quickly set up, the first couple text photos were taken, and it turned out that eight seconds of exposure time, at aperture 5.6 and ASA 100 was the perfect combination and produced pictures of Neowise that don’t have to hide from the competition.

The 13th of July brought not just a comet but also a bit of wind, so I used a two second timer and the mirror lockup function while shielding the camera with my body from the wind, in order not to blur the exposure.

Comet Neowise C/2020 above Perugia, Italy

The results are extraordinarily beautiful, be it because Perugia is the most beautiful city in Italy, or the comet is such a rare but pretty occurance in the sky, it was certainly a day to come home satisfied to live in such a special place, during such a special moment in time.

Although it nearly missed colliding with the sun this time, just to make a statement on how extraordinarily bland and trite existence can be, when after travelling for over 6000 years through endless empty space, one’s journey ends due to a foreboded error in trajectory. Things can and do end soon and death comes unexpected, albeit being the most democratizing factor of all, can also be the most dull and banal experience of all.

The last time a human eye has set sight on that object in the sky, the pyramids did not exist yet, or were merely a pharao’s dream, a floorplan scribbeld on papyrus, filed away under TBD’s in the pharaonic project library.

How lucky are we to set eyes upon such a rare occurrance. Most of us surely need a reminder of what kind of frame is provided by our existence. Our average lifespan would easily fit well over 70 times in that orbital period. And still we rely on postings on social media platforms with instant gratification mechanism, that further segmentize our days on earth into microscopic sectors, each of them subjectively of much more importance, than that heavenly body, sent to equalize us all.

comet italy neowise perugia