I was thinking this past week about trying to see the closest comet to Earth in recent memory. These flaming snowballs have intrigued me with their mysterious origins, epic journeys, and spectacular tails fanning out for 100 million miles. Despite the interest, life was busy and cosmic wonders competed with rocketing COVID-19 cases in California.
I continued to hear talk of Comet NEOWISE and how it could be seen in the North/West sky, finding the Big Dipper, and then looking towards the horizon. The instructions seemed clear, but the night sky near home was not.
When a work party at a friend's cabin near Downieville was rescheduled, I realized that an opportunity to see this illusive comet would pair well with the obligatory mountain bike ride. And any chance to camp atop Packer Saddle at over 7,000 feet is aw-inspiring for viewing the rugged Sierra Buttes during the day and the Milky Way at night.
Joined by others who came up to view the spectacle, I felt that we were experiencing something that truly united us in wonder and awe. It was surely an effort to get out of the city to experience something truly spectacular. But, during these times when we are estranged from others due to viruses and politics, we can still find community in our appreciation of nature and it's mysteries.