- Comet Neowise only appears every 6,800 years.
- It has been visible in the Northern Hemisphere from July 15 to July 23.
- John Nicotera and Erica Pendrak got engaged during the cosmic event, and their friend Tim Leach captured the proposal in a photograph.
- “He froze the greatest moment of my life so far,” Nicotera told Insider.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
A proposal is a memorable event for anyone. But for one couple, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
John Nicotera and Erica Pendrak got engaged under Comet Neowise, an extremely rare cosmic event.
Nicotera and Pendrak have been together for two years
Both Pendrak, 33, and Nicotera, 26, are teachers, with Pendrak teaching first grade and Nicotera teaching physical education.
The couple connected via Instagram, and they have been together ever since.
Nicotera told Insider he started thinking about proposing around Christmas 2019, but the time the two spent together in quarantine during the pandemic made him think more seriously about popping the question.
“We’ve lived together for over a year and a half,” Nicotera said. “But just being stuck at home every hour can take a toll on a person, and we had not a single issue.”
“I feel like the honeymoon phase of the relationship might’ve faded away and that was a big test,” he added. “We both figured out how to deal with each other’s problems, you know?”
Pendrak added that they just complement each other. “I love that I’m able to share genuine, serious, loving moments with John just as much as I can share silly moments,” she said.
Nicotera originally planned to propose at Crater Lake in Oregon, but travelling wasn’t possible, leaving him unsure of how to proceed.
Proposal inspiration struck when Nicotera heard about Comet Neowise
Nicotera describes himself as a space junkie, and he follows what’s happening with SpaceX and NASA very closely.
He recently learned of the rare comet, called Neowise, which only appears every 6,800 years, according to NASA. The comet was visible in the Northern Hemisphere from July 15 through July 23.
The comet seemed like the perfect occasion to propose. Nicotera made plans for himself and Pendrak to go to his family’s camp in Old Forge, New York, so they could watch the celestial event and he could pop the question.
Fate seemed to step in when Nicotera’s good friend Tim Leach, a photographer, reached out to see if the couple would want to take photos under the comet.
Leach had been taking photos of the comet for days, so he knew how to capture striking images. It required a long exposure, forcing anyone posing to stand still for several seconds after each picture was taken to ensure the comet was visible in the sky.
On July 18, Nicotera and Pendrak met up with Leach and his girlfriend to watch the comet, when the two men would work together to pull off the proposal.
They posed for a few photos together before Nicotera popped the question, so Pendrak didn’t suspect anything
After he and Pendrak had posed for a couple of pictures, Nicotera told Leach he was going to propose. He said he was nervous ahead of the moment.
But all of his nerves melted away as he looked at Pendrak before he got down on one knee.
Because they had to stay still under the exposure to capture the photos, Nicotera and Pendrak had a lot of meaningful eye contact during the comet.
“I just remember the amount of happiness I had going through me,” he said. “All the nerves were gone at that point. I was just like, ‘I’m massively in love with this girl. I’m going to do it.'”
Pendrak said she immediately started crying when Nicotera popped the question, as the proposal was a total surprise to her. She and Nicotera had discussed their future together, but she didn’t realise he had concrete plans to propose.
The couple told Insider they had to wait to hug for several seconds after he proposed because of the long exposure, which was difficult.
But they celebrated together once they could move, and Leach took more photos to ensure they would have proof of the moment forever.
The couple said they’re grateful Leach was able to document the proposal
“I’m just really happy Tim was able to be there and capture that moment for us,” Nicotera said.
“He froze the greatest moment of my life so far,” he added. “It’s not just a memory. I can relive it as long as that photo lasts, and we are always going to have that.”
The proposal also ended up going viral online, as Nicotera tweeted about the experience and tagged astronaut Garrett Reisman, who later retweeted the image and told the couple congratulations.
Well done! Congratulations. https://t.co/X3FhphmvvC
— Garrett Reisman (@astro_g_dogg) July 20, 2020
Nicotera is a big fan of Reisman, and he often listens to him on podcasts. The recognition was like the cherry on top of their proposal experience.
“Our story is being spread around the country and the world,” Pendrak said. “That’s kind of awesome to see and to have some good news.”
The couple hasn’t set a wedding date yet, but they’re hoping to get married sometime next summer.
- Read more:
- A man surprised his girlfriend by proposing at a Black Lives Matter protest: ‘Black lives matter, and Black love matters’
- A German farmer’s elaborate marriage proposal was captured on Google Maps
- A man proposed to his girlfriend during a screening of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ by editing himself into her favourite Disney movie
- A man proposed to his girlfriend on a plane a year after they met in the air
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