Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, November 01, 2007

Ruby man dies in fire, youth escapes

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RUBY - Alaska State Troopers say a house fire has claimed the life of a man in Ruby.

Troopers identified the victim as 52-year-old Richard Commack.

A minor was also in the house at the time of the fire, but escaped through a window. The youth was treated and released.

The cause of the Tuesday fire was not immediately known. The state fire marshal's office and troopers are investigating.

Ruby is about 230 miles west of Fairbanks.

5.7 quake detected in Aleutian Islands

ANCHORAGE - Scientists have detected a magnitude 5.7 earthquake in the far western Aleutian Islands.

The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says the temblor appears to have caused no damage in the virtually unpopulated area.

The center says the quake occurred about 85 miles southwest of Adak at a depth of 20 miles.

In comparison, a magnitude-5.6 quake in San Francisco on Tuesday caused gas leaks and broken water pipes, but no major damage or any injuries.

Man pleads guilty to crack cocaine charge

ANCHORAGE - A 44-year-old Anchorage man has pleaded guilty to manufacturing and distributing a controlled substance.

The U.S. Attorney's office says Derek Lamont Elliott faces up to 40 years in prison and a $2 million fine when he's sentenced in January.

Officials say Elliott provided crack cocaine to a co-defendant, who in turn sold it to a government informant in July 2006.

Fairbanks stargazers report comet sighting

FAIRBANKS - A comet that's usually too small to see without a telescope is suddenly much more visible, according to stargazers in Fairbanks.

They say the comet Holmes now looks like a bright star and can be seen with the naked eye.

Seen through binoculars or a telescope, the comet will "just knock people's socks off. It looks like a big explosion," said Martin Gutoski, with the Fairbanks Astronomical Unit.

Holmes, discovered in the 1890s, appears dimly in the night sky roughly every seven years.

The comet, which is about two miles across, is currently cruising through space somewhere between Mars and Jupiter and can be seen near the constellation Perseus.

Gutoski, who has been watching Holmes for the past several nights, said the best way to find the comet is to locate the constellation Cassiopeia and then move down about halfway toward the horizon and slightly to the right.

Gutoski said the comet is easy to tell apart from the surrounding stars, especially since its mysterious brightening.

Gutoski said he thinks the comet, made of ice and frozen gas, is shooting off gas for unknown reasons.

"Whatever it's doing, it's burping big time," he said. "This is probably a lot of gas boiling off."

Holmes will be visible in the sky for the next several months.

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