Fire in the sky

I went comet spotting last night. So did half of Cape Town, apparently.

Few people can resist the pull of a free show, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to see the hordes of curious Capetonians lining the Armco barrier on Victoria Road above Oudekraal just after sunset.

I joined the throngs of stargazers all squinting hopefully towards the southwest horizon. As the colour slowly drained from a sky that remained obstinately comet-free, self-styled experts tried to out-do one another with stupid stories about the appearance of Halley’s comet in 1986. By the way, it’s pronounced HAL-ee, not fucking HAY-lee, okay? I know how easy it is to get Bill Haley confused with Edmond Halley – especially since rock ‘n’ roll and astronomy are virtually indistinguishable from one another, but if I can overcome that hurdle, then anyone can.

When comet McNaught eventually put in an appearance, I thought it was awesome – in the literal sense of the word. Sadly, some of my temporary companions were less impressed than I was. Mutterings like, “…is that all?” filled the air as they slouched off to their cars and headed home to watch DSTV.

How can something as naff as a comet possibly hope to compete with that?

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33 thoughts on “Fire in the sky

  1. Ah, Halley.

    The best thing my parent’s could’ve done for me was this: (among tertiary ejicashun maybe)

    I was 5 years old when HAL-ee’s comet made it’s debut. They snatched me from my bed, while I was thoroughly enjoying deep REM sleep, and crusty eyed, carried me outside and said: “Peas one day you gonna thank us for this. See? It’s Halley’s comet.”

    Even in my recently-awoken stupor, I ‘ll never forget it.

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  2. Looks like this has been the week for rare glimpses of flying objects. I see a local football match was terrorised last night by the appearance of a pack of bloodthirsty advertising boards. Swooping from the stands, the art of ‘point of sale’ advertising was taken to a new level…..players barely escaped with their lives. It really does make for bizarre footage.

    Though I’m guessing it would have been far more fun to see McNaught swooping from the sky and taking out a few DSTV addicts…..

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  3. peas: So what happened? Were you abducted by aliens?

    insane insomniac: I’d pick a bag over my head over reality TV.

    forgottenmachine: That must have been an example of this new “in your face” advertising.

    salman: Interestingly enough, it depends on which resource you believe. I am equally able to back up the HAL-ee pronunciation and since I managed to get a photo last night (unlike others I could mention), I reckon that makes me the local comet expert around here.

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  4. I had a similar experience to Peas. My parents woke my sister and I up in the middle of the night (with warning that they were going to do so – we, of course, weren’t allowed to stay up but had to go to bed at normal time first) and my dad had his binoculars and scanned the night sky for ages until he finally found it and showed it to us.

    Good times!

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  5. “… especially since rock ‘n’ roll and astronomy are virtually indistinguishable from one another…”

    I am still struggling with this one because a comet is basically a rock and it is rolling… rolling, rolling on the river…

    Slap me, please.

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  6. I unexpectedly saw a comet once (and a UFO, but that’s a whole ‘nother story), and I’ll never forget it. Not that I’ll ever forget the UFO, mind.

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  7. Not a sign of it here in the Northern Hemisphere, didn’t even hear about it being down there in the sowf. But I do remember lying on my back on the beach at Arniston looking at Halley’s comet. I was more impressed by its history than its actually appearance – it reminded me of the first time I saw Stonehenge which was so much smaller than I’d expected it to be but I was still impressed.

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  8. spookie: That’s too bad. Looks like it’s DSTV for you.

    chitty: Pity there’s such an oversupply.

    urk: Technically, no. I even have a certificate to prove it.

    mjw: Of course, back in those days we didn’t have DSTV.

    katt: An interesting correlation. Well worthy of a slap (if you’re into that sort of thing).

    tripeak: This is starting to sound like a conspiracy to me.

    anne: Sure, you say that now. Wait until they give you amnesia.

    granny wrangler: Compared to the joys of wiping geriatric backsides, I’m sure it is.

    daverich: You’re lucky. The next time it comes around, I’ll be dead.

    terri: We do, don’t we?

    alan: It was visible in the northern hemisphere earlier in the year. Now it’s our turn.

    marissa: – or HAW-lee, according to Salman. Either way, it’s definitely not HAY-lee.

    peas: Damn.

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  9. I’ve sent my cell reminder so i can see it tonight (hopefully it’s still visible tonight) – i keep damn well forgetting! i’ll be heading due east to the Poenda at that time, so should have a reasonably decent view in my rear view mirror.

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  10. you have one? a certificate that you dont watch egoli? pray tell where i could get one. i have a hell of a rough time explaining to colleagues that i in fact do NOT know what is happening between Chris Edwards and Louwna..

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  11. Well, wait… was this one of those comets where one of the various and oh-so-looney oddball religious sects thinks its going to provide transportation up to heaven for them and them alone? If so, I hope you got a pic or an autograph or something. I mean, who cares about a rock-n-roll comets, right? 😉

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  12. my folks tried to wake me for halley- apparently i refused and hence missed out on it.
    when mcnaught was announced i was keen to spot it, and then we had such grotty cloudy rainy weather you couldn’t even see the moon and i pretty much gave up… then on tuesday, on the way to my sister, we spotted it through a postage-stamp sized hole in the clouds! it was spectacular!

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  13. How can something as naff as a comet possibly hope to compete with that?

    You might well ask.

    Well, tis Naught but a comet
    So it don’t get Top Billing
    Though more of the sky
    Than Halley’s its filling
    So back to our lounges
    For cheap plonk and TV
    You don’t need a mind
    To watch crap like BB

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  14. spookie: Cheaper, too.

    third world ant: Let’s hope circumstances conspired to make it happen.

    urk: I’ll photocopy mine for you.

    6000: Maybe the Discovery Channel will do a special on it.

    livewire: Could be, but it’s hard to tell. This is Cape Town, after all.

    angel: Good. At least now you know I wasn’t making it up.

    delboy: You saw comet Halley in ’96? You have sharp eyes 🙂

    inyoka: Exciting times, exciting rhymes.

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  15. cedric: It’s sort of like the neighbourhood cat: it’s white, has a long fuzzy tail and is generally out at night.

    ol’ hoss: Yup, it’s THAT English all right. Hoo boy.

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  16. Someone I was oblivious to this whole comet thing and as I drove home I saw this thing in the sky…and I thought “What on Google’s Green Earth is that?” (I had just read a previous entry of yours and the saying stuck)…I read in the news the next day that it had been hyped since the 16th already.

    It was pretty awesome though.

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