A rare opportunity to view a comet streaking through the night sky is drawing stargazers across Wyoming out to view its unmistakable trajectory.
Stargazers such as Greg Wise, a Powell-based photographer and retiree who, with his wife Susan, has been spending the wee hours traveling across northern Wyoming to capture novel views of NEOWISE. In this image of Wise’s, taken around 3:30 a.m. on July 12, the comet paints the sky above Heart Mountain.
Wise made the image on his Canon 5DSR in a single shot using a 25-second exposure.
The Wises aren’t the only ones losing sleep to see the show. The appearance of NEOWISE, one of the brightest comets of a generation, has created a stir among scientists and astronomers and prompted people across the Northern Hemisphere to turn their gaze skyward. Discovered on March 27 by NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Explorer, the 3-mile-wide ball of ice, dust and gas is putting on a memorable display as it passes Earth at a distance of some 64 million miles.
Its proximity to the sun is cooking the comet’s outermost layers, triggering gas and dust to erupt off the icy surface in a brilliant tail of debris.
Once it disappears in late July, the comet won’t be seen again for another 6,800 years, according to NASA.
The Wises plan to take full advantage of the opportunity, Greg Wise said. Watching the cosmos is well worth getting up at 1:30 a.m., he said.
“It helps me escape this world, get my mind on something else,” Wise said. “I see the universe and it’s just fascinating to me.”
You don’t have to get up in the middle of the night to see the comet. Amateurs who want to glimpse NEOWISE themselves should look to the northwest sky after sunset; it will appear below the Big Dipper.
This story has been updated to correct Greg Wise’s first name. -ED.