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Let the lure of a rare comet draw you outdoors

by Amy Roby
Comet NEOWISE is now visible to the naked eye in the northwest after sunset. This picture was taken on July 15 from near East Valley and Buckeye.
Scott McAfee photo

July ushers in a unique treat for skywatchers: a chance to see the newly discovered Comet C/2020 F3, also known as Comet NEOWISE.

So named for the Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, an asteroid-seeking mission funded by the Planetary Science Division of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Comet NEOWISE was discovered on March 27 this year. It measures approximately three miles across and is 64 million miles away from Earth. After it disappears to the outer realms of our solar system in mid-August, Comet NEOWISE won’t be seen again for more than 6,000 years.

Early risers may have already caught a glimpse of the comet in the pre-dawn hours over the past week or so. For another few days, Comet NEOWISE appears just slightly above the northeast horizon in the hour before sunrise.

Starting this week, the comet will be visible in the hour or so after sunset, between 10-20 degrees above the north-northwest horizon. Light from the waning moon shouldn’t be an issue, but the comet’s path just above the horizon combined with the proximity of the Sierras might make NEOWISE tough to see from the Carson Valley; look northwest in the area below the Big Dipper constellation to try and spot it. The comet’s distance above the horizon will continue to rise as the days pass, which will hopefully help with viewing ability from our area’s perspective.

NASA describes comets as “…frozen leftovers from the formation of the solar system composed of dust, rock and ices. They range from a few miles to tens of miles wide, but as they orbit closer to the sun, they heat up and spew gases and dust into a glowing head that can be larger than a planet. This material forms a tail that stretches millions of miles.”

For more information about Comet NEOWISE and the spacecraft credited with discovering it, log onto solarsystem.nasa.gov. Some great images of the comet can be found there, as well.

Food distribution this Saturday

Carson Valley Community Food Closet offers free food distribution to anyone in need on Saturday, July 18 from 8-10 a.m. All are welcome and asked to bring reusable baskets, bags, and boxes, if possible. Items available include dry and canned goods and household products.

Additional food distribution dates are scheduled for Aug. 15 and Sept. 19. The events are organized as a way to introduce the food closet services to everyone in the community, regardless of current recipient status.

Representatives from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Commodity Supplemental Food Program will be on hand to answer questions and help with program enrollment.

CVCFC is located 1251 Waterloo Lane in Gardnerville. Donations to the food closet are accepted from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

Questions may be directed to 775-782-3711 or info@thefoodcloset.org.

Amy Roby can be reached at ranchosroundup@hotmail.com.