Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Austin’s diurnal answer to Comet Neowise

with 46 comments

My imagination ignored the time of day and told me that a long wispy cloud stretched out over northeast Austin on July 24th was Comet Neowise, which other people have been showing pictures of. This is the closest I’m going to come to portraying that comet, which won’t be back for 6000 years. Somehow I don’t think I’ll still be here then, even if my mind super-optimistically assures me that I will.

Related etymology for today: our word comet goes back to Greek komētēs, which meant ‘long-haired,’ from the word for ‘hair, komē. Can you imagine this wispy cloud as long white tresses?

And a bit of biology, too: botanists have borrowed coma, the Latin form of Greek komē, to designate a tuft of hairs on a seed, as for example a milkweed seed.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2020 at 4:28 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

46 Responses

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  1. The origin of the word ‘comet’ is so interesting.. beautiful meaning!

    Ms. Liz

    July 26, 2020 at 4:38 AM

    • I’ve long wanted schools to include etymology as a regular part of the curriculum. Many things make more sense, and often become more picturesque, when we know why they came to be called what they are. For example our familiar word daisy began in Old English as the poetic metaphor “day’s eye.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2020 at 6:51 AM

      • “day’s eye, daisy”, that’s so sweet!

        Ms. Liz

        July 26, 2020 at 2:09 PM

        • It is, and yet almost no native English speaker knows it. I certainly didn’t until after I studied linguistics in college, but this etymology is simple enough any child can understand and appreciate it—provided textbooks include it and teachers teach it.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 26, 2020 at 2:21 PM

  2. Your comet is far more impressive than Neowise, Steve. Thanks for the etymological explanations!

    Peter Klopp

    July 26, 2020 at 7:55 AM

    • It sure looks a lot larger, and size is often a big factor in making an impression. Etymology makes so many words come alive.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2020 at 8:32 AM

  3. Nicely seen, and thanks for bringing a smile to my face this morning. And bravo for bringing it all together with the etymological musings. 🙂

    Todd Henson

    July 26, 2020 at 8:50 AM

    • Etymology is my muse. I find it amusing that musing on it is a rite that’s right up my alley.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2020 at 9:11 AM

  4. Beautiful and somehow, hopeful photo. That particular blue, augmented by the playful, wispy clouds, makes me happy and calm. As always, that’s for the word tutorial!


    July 26, 2020 at 10:10 AM

    • Hail, hope and happiness! Or as Irving Berlin wrote in 1926: “Blue skies smiling at me, / Nothing but blue skies do I see.” As for other words, it occurred to me that if you swap the two middle letters in calm and make some other changes, then your “happy and calm” gives way to “happy as a clam.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2020 at 10:54 AM

  5. I think you captured an excellent comet. That’s my comet comment. And thanks for the link. I’m going to be posting an updated version of that photo in a short little while.

    Michael Scandling

    July 26, 2020 at 10:48 AM

  6. Your ‘comet’ is certainly much easier to see!

    Eliza Waters

    July 26, 2020 at 10:48 AM

    • Definitely easier to see; in fact the clouds kept changing in appealing ways and I stopped every so often to take more pictures of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2020 at 11:00 AM

  7. Well, you are much closer than I have [or will… I’ve given up trying to photograph it! 😉 ] Love it! And I don’t think NEOWISE would mind! 😉

    marina kanavaki

    July 26, 2020 at 10:51 AM

  8. Nice wisps. And nice stand-in for Neowise. With all the thousands of comet images, yours is most likely the only one of that nice cirrus streak. And to be completely honest…I just made a very similar comment to someone else who also posted a cloud instead of a comet.

    Steve Gingold

    July 26, 2020 at 1:29 PM

  9. I see it too! Great cloud interpretation!


    July 26, 2020 at 1:45 PM

    • Happy vision to you. It was hard to miss with clouds as deliciously wispy as the ones two days ago.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2020 at 2:03 PM

  10. It really is remarkable that your comet-like image is so similar to an actual comet, with the head to the left and the tail streaming off to the right. I’m really curious about the parallel striations in the ‘head.’ There was a whole lot of activity going on up there, and you captured it both beautifully and imaginatively.


    July 26, 2020 at 6:55 PM

    • Beauty and imagination were my friends here. I noticed the parallel striations in the head of the would-be comet. They seem to continue above the “comet,” so my interpretation is that they were fainter and closer clouds drifting in front of one end of the elongated cloud.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 26, 2020 at 7:01 PM

      • You’re right. It looks like the striations are being carried by the same currents affecting the parallel clouds farther back. With so many cross-currents, it’s even more remarkable that you were able to capture the comet-like form so clearly.


        July 26, 2020 at 7:04 PM

        • I photographed the comet-like cloud from three locations as it moved and developed. Deciding which one picture to include here was the hard part. I originally showed a view in which the “comet” was mostly vertical, then changed my mind.

          Steve Schwartzman

          July 27, 2020 at 5:52 AM

  11. A fine photo, and impressively comet-like. NEOWISE is a comet you don’t have to stay up for, but I’ve seen comets through binoculars, and they aren’t such a thrill.


    July 26, 2020 at 10:55 PM

    • I agree with you that this long wispy cloud was more impressive than a comet, at least as most people get to see a comet.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 27, 2020 at 5:55 AM

      • In binoculars, a comet is just a fuzzy ball. In a photograph they are beautiful – but not a photograph I’m inclined to take.


        July 27, 2020 at 9:24 AM

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