Home » 2020 Eastern Sierra During Covid

Mono Lake, CA

Saturday, July 18, 2020 - 3:30pm by Lolo
70 miles and 1.5 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Mono LakeMono LakeHello again Mono Lake! We’re back!

Herb just loves this place. I do too, but probably not quite as much as he does. Brine flies and gnats tend to like me more than they do him.

As I mentioned in our previous stop in Bishop, the Neowise Comet was appearing in the sky every night after sunset, and we thought if we could capture it over the tufas, that would be pretty awesome. Spoiler alert - that didn’t exactly happen, but we still had a good time and got to see it again. I don’t think we’re going to make it to its next appearance in 6,800 years.

Just like Neowise, which appears in the same spot just under the Big Dipper each night, we appeared back at the same camping spot we had stayed at earlier this trip.

Tufa furniture storeTufa furniture storeAfter learning the hard way, and getting muck up to our knees, we now knew the way to navigate our way around the springs and marshy parts to get down to the water’s edge without mishap.

We spent the afternoon wandering around the area between our campsite amongst the tufas along the lake’s shore.

During an attempt to get back to the truck without getting mucky, I took a different way back and discovered a very different strange-looking type of tufa. Rather than grandeously rising towards the sky like a castle or tower, these were low and boxlike, more like furniture than castles.

Mono LakeMono LakeSometimes it pays to have a bad sense of direction, because it leads you to new things. When I showed Herb the photo of them later, he said, “where did you find them?” Sometimes you just have to wander aimlessly, and even cluelessly.

As the afternoon wore on, some clouds moved in. Usually, this was a good thing because they made sunsets more dramatic, but not so good if you were trying to see a comet move through the night sky. Oh well, it is what it is. We would just have to wait and see what unfolded.

Our campsite on Mono LakeOur campsite on Mono LakeSunset wasn’t until 8:15 tonight, so we had a lot of time to kill before finding out. While we’re waiting, let’s talk a little about the Neowise Comet.

First, what is the difference between a meteor and a comet, although they are both very exciting things to see in the night sky.

A meteoroid is a lump of rock or iron that orbits the sun. Occasionally, they crash through the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up (usually before reaching Earth) resulting in a streak of light across the sky. When that happens the meteoroid is now called a meteor. It happens quickly and you can miss it if you blink.

Neowise over Mono LakeNeowise over Mono LakeComets on the other hand are frozen leftovers from the formation of the stars and planets billions of years ago. They are composed of ice, rock, and dust and range from a few miles to tens of miles - much larger than a meteoroid. When one of these large balls of ice gets close enough to the sun, some of the ice melts, and that melted ice becomes a gaseous tail that extends away from the Sun and is pushed out by the Sun's solar wind. Unlike a meteor, a comet takes its time as it crosses the night sky. That is because it is millions and millions of miles away from us.

Also comets are predictable, in that we know when they are passing through again, and repetitive, in that they will re-appear, in Neowise's cast, just below the Big Dipper, after sunset for nine consecutive nights. In this case, from July 15th through July 23. This was July 18th, so we should now be in the thick of it.

Okay, enough of that. Now let’s see if we can see the real thing.

The skies were still quite cloudy, but Herb did manage to get a photo of Neowise in a clearing. Unbeknownst to him at the time, he had also managed to capture a meteor streaking through the atmosphere, up and to the left of the comet at about 11:00. Really tough to see in the photo, but it was there.

Mono Lake location map in "high definition"

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