In the bleak, frozen depths of the solar system I glide silently onward in my eternal journey. Out here, the Sun seems small and dim, no longer the majestic parent of a multitude of planets, asteroids, and comets. Now, little more than a slightly warmer patch of space, I’m left with nothing but time to ponder my most recent brush with the inner solar system.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t at my best. The geometry wasn’t really in my favor, and maybe I’m not as young as I used to be, but something was different this time. There were far more inhabitants of this planet Earth, yet they seemed almost oblivious to my presence! Upon closer inspection, they all seemed to huddle together in great spires of steel and glass surrounded by bright lights pointing in all directions as if they were trying to hide from the darkness. Instead of throngs of people basking in the beauty of the night sky, a few small, metal probes were sent to orbit to take pictures and beam them back to the surface. These grainy images were then shared around the world, but few people noticed.
It wasn’t always like this. In ages past, I was more than just a footnote on the evening news, I was a messenger of the gods! Interpreted as an omen of things to come, kingdoms waged wars, societies staged elaborate rituals, and millions gazed at me in wide-eyed wonder. Accounts of my passage were inscribed upon clay tables, images painted onto walls, and descriptions of my motion written upon delicate scrolls of primitive parchment. What power I had over the inhabitants of that small, blue jewel! Yet, here and now, it seemed almost the entire planet was ready to dismiss me without so much as acknowledging my grandeur.
I was nearly ready to give up and accept my place in this society’s forgotten history when I noticed a young boy standing outside his home and looking upward, straining to pierce the glow of nearby streetlights. For just a moment, I could see in his eyes the same look shared by his ancestors – a look of awe as he took in the beauty of my celestial dance. I might not have changed the world, but maybe I changed just one life.
I still sit outside at night, staring skyward with the same wide-eyed wonder at the beauty of the cosmos that I found that fateful evening. It’s been nearly twenty-five years and Halley’s Comet is still more than fifty years away from returning. Maybe the world didn’t change drastically that night, though perhaps the lifelong passion that I gained can have some small effect before Sir Halley’s Comet returns. I’d sure like to see my old friend again, and perhaps inspire others to greet him as I did.