In recent years, the celestial event that most touched my emotions and imagination was seeing Comet Halle-Bopp as it made its way through our neighborhood in the late 90s. I found an undated account of this in a copy of a letter I wrote (it would have to be from 1997, but exactly when, I don't know), and I'd like to share it with you:
I have been easing deeper and deeper into a serious love affair with the night sky. The other morning Cris, my wife, got in from work about 5:00 a.m. I had just dozed off (I can never sleep when she's closing the store and has late nights) when she came in and told me I had to come see something outside. I got up, groggy and cold, because I dozed without any cover, stumbled out the door with my feet shod only with socks, and they quickly began absorbing cold water from the ground, adding to my chill. She said, "Is that the comet?" There it was! There it was, a fuzzy star looking thing with a clearly visible tail. It was eerie standing there half-asleep, shivering with cold, looking out across millions of miles of space at a ghostly visitor I had never seen before. It was an awesome experience. The next night I began watching for it to see exactly when it would show up over the horizon. During the evening I watched the Big Dipper travel across the sky. I finally dropped off to sleep, but Cris woke me up when she came in. I went out and just stared -- and wondered. We got the older two children up to come see it. After everyone else had gone inside, I just stood there watching my new friend sailing across the cosmos when all of a sudden a spectacular meteor, sparks flying, streaked its way across the sky just above me. What can I say? Wow! What a night!
[Image Credits: (1) Earthrise from Apollo 8 by NASA, (2) Halle-Bopp Comet by Ian Griffin Astronaut Memorial Planetarium & Observatory, Cocoa, Florida, October 5, 1997 http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/comet/images9710.html]