Have you ever seen Halley’s Comet? Isn't it amazing! Just look at it!!!!
We all know Halley's Comet because it’s the prodigal son. The handsomest, most-lauded-and-applauded, pampered-and-prodded prince of comets. It’s the super-duper male model from space that can do no wrong.
Scientifically speaking, it's a periodic, traveling passed Earth roughly every 76 years, and we all hope and pray that we can see this celestial god just once in our lifetime. Twice and we can say we meant something. Which means British astronomer Edmond Halley is the envy of the human race. He believed that the comets of 1456, 1531, 1607, and 1682 were actually one in the same, and it would return in 1758. He was right. And yet, by the time his eponymous comet reappeared as he had predicted, and bestowed immortality upon him…he was dead.
But Halley wasn’t the only mortal man to wrap his destiny around the beautiful, blue ion tail of said comet and ride its wake into the history books. In 1066, William the Conqueror (the Bastard) witnessed Halley streaking across the heavens and believed his ascendance to the English throne was by astrological design. Of course, he came to this egoistic conclusion only AFTER the Battle of Hastings and his status as the first Norman King of England was all but assured.
The comet was then sewn into the Bayeux Tapestry to commemorate the invasion and honor the bastard.
Chinggis Khaan gazed upon the comet in 1222 and adopted the poor, lost ice ball as his personal star. As it headed west, he mounted his space steed and carved a bloody path through Southeast Europe, dismounting periodically to make glorious whoopee and leave a Y-chromosome that still resides in 16 million Asian men. I’ve seen Halley’s Comet 6 times, but it didn’t inspire me to change the geographic and genetic borders of North America. Maybe 7th time’s a charm.
Halley has influenced artists as well as conquerors. In 1301, it’s arrival inspired Italian painter Giotto’s "The Adoration of the Magi." According to mankind, Halley was there for Baby Jesus. Mark Twain, the master of social satire, book-ended his time on Earth in conjunction with Halley’s perihelion. Born 2 weeks before it arrived in 1835, he predicted his own death upon it's return in 1910. He was a day off.
Now let’s talk about Halley’s ugly, 3rd cousin from his Great Aunt Rita who married a colored man against her father’s wishes, dropped an “L” from the family name to distance herself further from her estranged, closed-minded family, added a hyphen because she was a strong woman who refused to be compromised by her husband’s surname, and moved to Tennessee.
On the night of July 23, 1995, TLC’s “Waterfalls” is at the top of the Billboard Charts and Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp (both amateur astronomers) simultaneously discover and take credit for the hyphenated bastard Comet Hale-Bopp. Bopp didn’t even own a telescope and was out that night with his friends stargazing (drinking) in Arizona when he caught a glimpse through his buddy’s scope. He sent a telegram (seriously) to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams (CBAT) and staked his claim. Unfortunately, Alan Hale was in New Mexico also stargazing (high) from his driveway that very same night. Hale had already joined the 20th century and sent 3 emails by the time Western Union delivered Bopp’s telegram.
Hale and Bopp split custody of their celestial baby and named it Hale-Bopp. The poor star child faced endless ridicule at the hands of elementary school attendance calls for years to come. After Hale-Bopp peaked in 1997, it disappeared, and nobody gave it a second thought. It’s too bad because Hale-Bopp was one of the brightest comets of the 20th century and visible for a record 18 months.
As a tragic post script, two legitimate scientists, Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker were in Australia attempting to photograph Hale-Bopp when they were involved in a gruesome head on collision. Eugene died at the scene. His ashes, however, were sent to the moon along with a picture of Hale-Bopp (the comet, not the amateur astronomers).
So. Let’s check the scoreboard.
Halley’s Comet…Earth’s darling. Inspired the greatest conquerors and artists in history. A comet of destiny that changed the world and can change your fortune if you gaze upon this celestial luck dragon just once in your mortal or immortal lifetime, whichever the case may be.
Comet Hale-Bopp…forced to exist for eternity as a hyphenate at the hands of two amateur schleps, blamed for the murder of an astronomical legend, and forgotten by mankind.
If you’re still interested, Halley will be back on July 28, 2061 and Hale-Bopp a few thousand years later in 4385.
But really, they’re both just dusty snowballs orbiting the sun and could care less what we think or don’t think about them.
Where am I going with this. I really haven’t thought that through.
I’m trying to be like them.
Just keep rolling…