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Okay we've known it was headed our way for more than a year.
Early in 2013 shortly after its discovery, the buzz throughout the Inner Planets was that ISON was sure to be The Comet of Your Lifetime.
well you never seen anything like it!
you never seen anything like it!
you never seen anything like it in your life!
(-- Anthony Newley song, from "Doctor Dolittle,"
about the pushmepullya, the amazing two-headed llama.)
Comet Cock-Tease was guaranteed & certified to blaze in our skies as it passed near Earth, so fiery that you could see it clearly during broad daylight with the naked eye, or, for the modest, with just little eyeblouses. Its souvenirs and t-shirts would kick-start the ailing economies of Earth, and boost hard times on Venus, Mercury and Mars. Minstrels were composing ballads in tierce picarde about the impending monster Comet.
What a show was on its way!
Now, alas, the latest bulletin from the Vleeptron High Non-Junk Science Council is that ISON is likely to join Kohoutek (1973) as one of modern times' most overhyped boring undistinguished silly comets.
Pull up a deckchair -- probably nighttime only -- buy a bag of trail mix, and Prepare for The Great Disappointment of Late October 2013. Pray for clear night skies, and if you got a telescope or binoculars or opera glasses or expensive telephoto lenses, pull 'em out of the closet.
But you'll definitely see Comet ISON (with a modicum of luck), and she promises to be one real purdy Sky Thing (see photograph at top).
Now there's a controversy among Cometologists (I think I just made that word up) as to whether ISON will plunge into The Sun with an explosive bang, or just do the Normal Comet Ellipse Orbit thang, zip around The Sun, and then return back to the Oort Cloud, and hang way out there for -- well, the typical gazillion years. It will be back, but you won't ever see it again.
Watch This Space for the latest updates.
That's the cool thing about comets -- they lie, shamelessly, about how supercallifragialisticexpialidocious they're going to be when they zip past Earth. They promise to fry our eyeballs and sear our brains -- and then they make a little poofy fart noise and dive back to the oblivion from whence they came.
I flew to the desert near Alice Springs, Australia to see Comet Halley in 1987. And when the night skies finally stopped being grouse (local slang for crappy), Halley put on a very respectable show. We didn't have to bring our own telescopes; the Alice Springs Amateur Astronomy Society was kind enough to give us view time on their big spiffy scopes. (Most of them were Yanks who worked at the National Security Agency's supersecret Golf Ball Factory, local slang for Pine Gap, an electronic listening facility which does not exist.)
I love comets. If you don't love comets, bite me. Leave a Comment about comets you've seen, and when and where you saw them, and whether a king died, and who lost the big battle.
I just met somebody who knew that Mark Twain came with the Comet, and went out with the Comet. If I want to see Comet Halley again, I got to hang around until about 2063.
It could happen -- I finally stopped smoking! And 116.3 is the new 105!