The Harbinger of Doom Comet Neowise Meets Eerie Noctilucent Clouds During Rare Occurrences in the Morning Sky Over Europe

When European astronomers woke up this morning to photograph Comet NEOWISE (C/2020 F3), they saw something they didn’t expect.

The sunrise comet was surrounded by noctilucent clouds.

Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc pictures, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc video
Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise and NLC Taken by Giacomo Venturin on July 6, 2020 @ Monte Grappa – Italy
Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc pictures, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc video
Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise with NLC Taken by Miroslaw Fröhlich on July 6, 2020 @ Turek, Poland
Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc pictures, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc video
C / 2020 F3 (NEOWISE) Taken by Marian Urbaník on July 6, 2020 @ Čadca, Slovak republic
Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc pictures, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc video
Comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE with NLC Taken by Andreas Moeller on July 6, 2020 @ Berlin, Germany
Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc pictures, Comet NEOWISE with noctilucent clouds nlc video
Comet C/2020 F3 Neowise, NLC. Taken by Karol Ostapiński on July 6, 2020 @ Lublin, Poland

It was a rare morning, indeed.

Comet Neowise

On July 3rd, Comet NEOWISE flew past the sun near the orbit of Mercury. Some astronomers feared the comet might dissolve. Instead, it held together and became bright enough to see in morning twilight (currently at magnitude +2).

As July unfolds, Comet NEOWISE will move into progressively darker skies, further improving its visibility.

It will remain a morning comet for the next ~week, then shift mid-month to evening skies where casual star gazers can see it without waking at the crack of dawn.

They might see some noctilucent clouds, too.

If you are interested in spotting the comet in the morning or in the night sky, here are some maps: July 7, July 8, July 9, July 10, July 11, July 12, July 13, July 14, July 15.

Comets in ancient cultures

Comets have inspired dread, fear, and awe in many different cultures and societies around the world and throughout time. They have been branded with such titles as “the Harbinger of Doom” and “the Menace of the Universe.” They have been regarded both as omens of disaster and messengers of the gods. Why is it that comets are some of the most feared and venerated objects in the night sky?

Comets in Ancient Cultures: The Harbinger of Doom or Messengers of the Gods?

Noctilucent clouds were first noticed in the mid-19th century after the  eruption of super-volcano krakatoa. Volcanic ash spread through the atmosphere, painting vivid sunsets that mesmerized observers all around the world.

krakatoa eruption loudest sound history

That was when the NLCs appeared. At first people thought they must be some side-effect of the volcano, but long after Krakatoa’s ash settled the noctilucent clouds remained.

So when the Harbinger of Doom meets mysterious clouds high in the atmosphere, there is really something weird and rare going on! Be ready!