A comet blazes the imagination with its fiery streak of light against the ever-changing night sky. The bright beacons inspire writers and poets, legends, and fantasy...
Sun orbiters, comets are mud balls made of rock, ice, and gases. Leftovers from the formation of the solar system, comets are invisible until they are near to the sun.
About the magic of getting close to the sun, writer Zora Neale Hurston once exclaimed, "Mama exhorted her children at every opportunity to 'jump at de Sun.' We might not land on the sun, but at least we would get off the ground."
Active comets, with their nucleus, coma, and tail, almost seem to 'jump at de Sun.' The sun's heat activates the coma into a glowing halo and solar winds blow the tail, a trailing cloud that can extend for millions of miles.
"Momma always told me not to look in the eye's on the sun," wrote Bruce Springsteen in Blinded By the Light, "But momma that's where the fun is."
Long ago, unpredictable comets were blamed for disasters, foreshadowed tragedy and labeled the instrument of the devil. Fun. They were also thought to signal an important birth or a great event. One popular theory is that a Manhattan-sized comet hit the earth 65 million years ago, causing extinction of the dinosaurs.
The dramatic Hale-Bopp comet, discovered by two amateur astronomers, spectacularly illuminated the sky in 1997. Missed it? The wonder of it will be back in a few thousand years.
Keep your eyes open: Comets... and success... just come around.