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Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

A weather photographer captured Comet NEOWISE soaring across Abbotsford’s early-morning sky on July 11.

Randy Small was just north of Lynden in Washington State when he was able to photograph the comet heading northeast over the Abbotsford around 3:30 a.m.

Small, who said he had woken up a little before 3 a.m. hoping to witness the once-in-a-lifetime comet. He said he was almost next to the border when he spotted it.

“I didn’t see it at first with the naked eye, but I just shot northeast,” Small said. “As soon as I shot, my camera picked it up.”

The comet, formally known as C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE), was discovered this year on March 27 by the NEOWISE Space Telescope.

Comet NEOWISE is a retrograde comet, meaning it orbits around our solar system in the opposite direction of the rotational axis of the Sun and planets.

NASA says the comet is about five kilometres across, and its tail is caused by its very close orbit around the Sun, heating its outer-ice layers and releasing gas and dust in a tail of debris.

Comet NEOWISE is expected to remain visible to eyesight throughout July, and orbit closest to Earth on July 23 at a distance of 103 million kilometres away, according to NASA.

Small – a part-time landscape and weather photographer, and part-time storm-chasing news stringer – said he’s frequently up at dawn and dusk hours.

“I’ve shot probably 80 per cent of the sunrises and sunsets [since 2016]” he said. “I’m willing to get up early, or get up at midnight and do crazy stuff if something special like this is happening.”

Randy Small photo.

RELATED: B.C. man captures moment comet smashes into super blood wolf moon

Patrick Penner

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