Professional photographer Dan Norris captured this spectacular photograph of Comet NEOWISE earlier this week in Arches National Park. The comet glows over the famous “Three Gossips” rock formation, as vehicle traffic illuminates a portion of the ground below.
“I have lived in Moab since July of 1992 and photography is what brought me here,” said Norris. He owned and operated Ancient Images Greeting Cards for 20 years, starting with his own images and then adding the works of 70 other photographers over the years. Norris sold that company in 2008 but continues to publish greeting cards and calendars for other photographers. He is partners with photographer Tom Till and Tom Till Tours. The company works with photographers of all skill levels from all over the world to capture sunrises, sunsets and night images of the spectacular Moab area.
“I captured this image of Comet NEOWISE on Sunday, July 19 with tour clients from the Provo, Utah area. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most photographers, and one I was determined not to miss since it won’t be back for 6,800 years,” said Norris. “Since living in Moab, NEOWISE is the third comet I have had the luck to photograph. In March 1996 I was able to capture Comet Hykutake, and in July 1997, Comet Hale-Bopp. Arches has always been one of the best locations in the world to photograph a comet,” he said.
The comet made its closest approach to the sun on July 3, but until this week was only visible in the sky before dawn. It is now getting higher in the evening sky, sparkling northwest below the Big Dipper constellation.
The name stands for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Widefield Infrared Survey Explorer, the NASA space telescope that first spotted the comet earlier this year on March 27, 2020.
Comets are sometimes called icy snowballs because they are icy, rocky objects made up of ice, rock and dust. They orbit the sun, and as they get closer to the ball of fire, most comets start streaming two tails, one made of dust and gas, and an ‘ion tail’ made of electrically charged gas molecules, or ions.
The comet will be visible on clear nights through the rest of July.