Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Dearth of Comets

Comet Lulin. Snore.

Color me unimpressed by Comet Lulin.

Not that I ever saw this particular comet, which, the astronomers bragged, was winging within 28 million miles of our little planet.

I've gone out every night this week. I've been up at 5 am looking as well, scanning the skies near Leo, searching with naked eye and a fairly good set of binoculars, hoping to spot this greeny comet lighting up the night sky.

Nothing. True, at its brightest, Comet Lulin was ranked only at magnitude 5, barely brighter than the faintest stars visible with the naked eye. But I still wanted to see it.

Comet Hale-Bopp. Pretty Decent.

I consider myself lucky that I got to see Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, and what a spectacular sight that was. But if I could get one trip on a time machine, I'd head back to 1910, when folks in North America witnessed not only the then-spectacular return of Halley's Comet, but also got to see the Great Comet of 1910. (And they got to see that even though the comet, at first, was only visible in the southern hemisphere. The tail got so big it could be seen worldwide.) They knew how to build comets back then. Massive, huge comets that shot tails halfway across the night sky, not these little, wimpy, transistorized comets we get these days. Bill Gates and his doppelganger Steve Jobs are probably to blame.

The Great Comet of 1910. Yow.

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