The new year has not commenced as I wish it had. I have had a bout with the flu to bring in the new year, the first time I have really been down for the virus in more than 30 years. I have taken the flu vaccine each year for the past 10 or so years. But sometimes you get sick regardless. I bought some over-the-counter meds today that has helped the cough and nasal congestion. Still, I feel a “might peaked,” as the old-timers used to say.

I hope the year ahead proves better than its start. I have found something to give me some hope even though it is toward the year’s end.

Various publications are speculating that the fairly-recent discovery of the Comet ISON, which may be visible by November 2013, could be the “Comet of the Century.” Well, that is not exactly a starry endorsement given the century is only 13 years old. And chances are, most of us won’t be around to see whether ISON is as spectacular as anticipated.

Media have ballyhooed comets and other wonders of the sky over the years only to come up with a disappointed public. My Dad had talked about Halley’s and how it had long been predicted a sight to behold upon its return in the 1980s. He passed away a couple of years before the great comet’s time although he probably would have been as disappointed with its brilliance as I was.

Comet Hale-Bopp lit up skies in the latter 1990s. Will a 2013 small solar system body be the next big deal?
Comet Hale-Bopp lit up skies in the latter 1990s. Will a 2013 small solar system body be the next big deal?

The 70s Kouhoutek also turned out to be what we call down here in Texas “All hat and no cattle.”

As for the 1997 comet Hale-Bopp, I have no idea from where it came. If any great expectations were predicted for it, I did not hear of them before its appearance. But Hale-Bopp definitely wore the big cat’s pants.

Perhaps my viewing Halley’s, and only seeing it as a weak telescopic vision at that, I remember upon my hearing of the very first mention of Hale-Bopp, “Here we go again.”

But the great comet’s sight  was simply beyond imagination as far as I was concerned. The object could be seen as the spring sky turned to night with only the naked eye for a viewing. Sometime is was difficult for me to drive during the hours Hale-Bopp was visible as it was something from which you didn’t want to avert your eyes, fearing it might disappear for good.

The great comet also brought about something which was much more than a matter of senses. An unknown quality — magic if you will — permeated the air surrounding Hale-Bopp. Perhaps some, like the cultists led by former Texas choir director Marshall Applewhite, breathed that air too deeply, so to speak. Hale-Bopp brought to me, at least, that invisible feeling that makes one believe it should have left behind a great cosmic neon sign reading: “A Good Time Was Had By All.”

Of course, not everyone had a good time. You had to be there.

One can only hope ISON is nearly as brilliant as Hale-Bopp. It will definitely be worth the price of admission.



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