Tonight we watched comet NEOWISE appear in the northwestern sky, above the distant lights of Reno, Nevada, the “Biggest Little City in the World.” We could see the comet itself clearly, and its tail was faintly visible with naked eyes.
We’ve been watching the comet appear the past few evenings, enjoying its emergence. Much better than a week or two earlier, when it appeared before sunrise , when we were fast asleep.
Comet NEOWISE will disappear in a few days and will not be visible from earth again for another 6,800 years. Whether or not there is anyone on earth to see, and marvel at it.
My first car was a comet. A 1965 Mercury Comet Caliente two-door coupe. I bought it in 1976, for $415. If I remember correctly it had something like 50,00 miles on the odometer at the time. And not much paint left on the body.
I paid $415 because that’s what I had to spend. I think the asking price was $500. I didn’t have that, but I had driven the car and I wanted it. The seller asked, “How much do you have?”
And I answered, truthfully, innocently, naively, “$415.” And suddenly I owned a 1965 Comet Caliente two-door coupe. An 11-year old car that cost about $2,500 new. My negotiating skills have not improved all that much in the past five decades. Nor my investment tactics. Today, that car, in nice condition, is worth about $17,000.
Though my 415 dollars from 1976 would be equivalent to nearly $1,900 today. And the Comet’s original 1965 price of $2,500 would be a bit over $20,000. That’s Honda Civic or Volkswagen Jetta money. Seems about right.
The surprise appearance of Comet NEOWISE seems about right, too. A NASA mission discovered it on March 27 of this year. That’s right around the time that communities here in the US began taking measures to combat the rapidly growing COVID-19 pandemic.
A few days earlier, Nevada closed the campgrounds in its state parks. We had to leave one of our favorite campsites at Washoe Lake. With nowhere else to go, we found refuge in the side yard of some generous friends’ home in Reno. We holed up there for three months, finally able to travel again in early June.
A few weeks later Comet NEOWISE traveled into view from earth. It gave us something wondrous to think about in the midst of a very bad time for humanity. And now Val and I are able to look up and enjoy it from a peaceful campsite at Washoe Lake State Park. We’re leaving tomorrow and our lives and travels will be largely dictated by the arc of the rapidly worsening pandemic.