ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Contrasting Comets

Updated on January 13, 2012

 

Utter disappointment and complete exhilaration are closer together than they may seem. The two are relative to each of us, given our expectations and how easily we are placated. It really comes down to what you anticipate, in most cases. If you keep your expectations low, then the outcome is by definition bound to be more satisfying. A precursor to happiness is basically learning how to see the glass as half full no matter what.

 

I’ll give you a for instance: Back in 1973, a much ballyhooed comet was set to dazzle the planet. Time, Newsweek, the major television networks, and much of the rest of the  media played up the eminent arrival of “Comet Kohoutek” (pronounced Ku-hoe-tek), named after its discoverer, astronomer Lubos Kohoutek. In our fifth grade world, we envisioned Kohoutek as the quintessential mad scientist, wearing a white lab coat at all times, looking like a cross between Einstein, Marx and Lenin. Buried deep in his laboratories, staring through a phalanx of ultra-powerful cannon-sized telescopes, Kohoutek never slept lest he miss any potential stellar phenomenon.

 

Such was our newfound comet mania that we let down any of the Cold War defenses held by our teachers and parents. We knew Kohoutek was a communist from somewhere behind the Iron Curtain, but it didn’t matter to us. He could have been a trans-gender Romanian gymnast for all we cared. Two classmates engaged in a raging argument over whether he was actually Czech or East German. (He was Czech.) With his well-honed comet finding skills, we embraced Kohoutek as one of our own, like David Bowie or sad to say now, OJ Simpson.

 

Fall came. October, Novermber. Shorter days and crisper nights. Chuck Phipps and I, theretofore immune to each other’s presence, became staunch comet-searching allies. Like Linus in the pumpkin patch, we were true believers in Kohoutek’s calculations and visions. We gazed interminably at the night sky, talking about everything from comets to vomiting, our breath visible in the chilled air. For that comet, we missed many a dinner, M*A*S*H episode, and more than once, homework assignments. We remained vigilant night after night despite the comet’s stubborn celestial absence. (We were certain, however, that we had spotted a UFO hovering over the neighboring slightly-more-white-trash-than-our-own apartment complex. This sighting was never confirmed by the authorities, however.)

 

As autumn wore on, the nay-sayers came out in droves. The media now began to turn on the very figure they had lionized weeks earlier, questioning Kohoutek’s methods and conclusions. His comet, many now thought, was a dud, a ruse. The media called it “Comet Watergate,” implying we’d all been suckered by this commie fraud. My infidel classmates were even more crude and cruel, coming up with the admittedly catchy nickname of “Comet Kotex.” Impudent fools. They knew nothing.

 

Phipps and I took all this extremely personally, as if we were Kohoutek’s lab assistants or his public relations firm. We had a stake in proving this mad scientist right. Our classmates mocked us and said we were wasting our time. Imagine approximately twenty-five Lucy Van Pelts and you have the picture. They had completely gone over to the dark side. On Thanksgiving afternoon, Phipps and I wolfed down our turkey and stuffing to rush out and continue our comet stalking. Just a few days later, high in the northwestern sky at dusk, it finally appeared. Comet Kohoutek looked a little like the Nike swoosh symbol, a small pink dagger on the late afternoon horizon. Phipps and I were ecstatic. It was real. It was finally here, and it was a thing of truly understated radiance. In an era of glam rock, huge afros and platform shoes, understated beauty was a rare quality and in this respect, Kohoutek’s discovery was an unexpected gift and we considered ourselves his finest comet hunters.

 

That December, Phipps and I uttered hasty goodbyes in the freezing night air. His father had been transferred to Minneapolis and he was gone the next day. Kohoutek had been our only bond, so parting came easily, casually, as it will to fifth graders accustomed to transient apartment complex realities.

 

Comet Kohoutek slipped quickly into popular memory as a bogus, over-hyped sham. I remember hearing a neighbor say with certainty, “Wait till Haley’s Comet comes. That will be the real deal.” Indeed, in school we’d been sold on Haley’s Comet for years preceding Kohoutek’s surprising discovery. Science class filmstrips, textbooks and lectures alike assured us that every 76 years like clockwork Haley’s Comet came around. It had last appeared in 1910 and was due again in just over a decade.

 

                                                                                                           

 

When 1986 rolled around, Haley’s real deal was nowhere to be seen at all, not even once, in North America. It was blotted from night-sky vision by a combination of artificial urban light reflection and growing air pollution. I wanted to find my know-it-all neighbor now. Unlike “Comet Watergate,” not even a brief glimpse was enjoyed this time. Somewhere deep inside a Czech laboratory, Lubos Kohoutek was smiling.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • keithmitchell5 profile imageAUTHOR

      keithmitchell5 

      8 years ago from Indianapolis

      Katia - of course! All comrades get their due.

      LJ- Thank you! It's a good memory for me. We got stubborn b/c no one else believed.

    • ljulian profile image

      ljulian 

      8 years ago

      I loved how you guys never gave up. It made me long for the less jaded expectations of youth. Being satisfied is always a choice. Loved the shout out to the Peanuts characters. I did not know Lucy's last name until now!

    • profile image

      babushka katia 

      8 years ago

      Way to remember the comrades from behind the Iron Curtain :)

      Nice!!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 

      9 years ago

      Interesting hub. Whenever I hear about a possible solar sighting I am always disappointed. Somehow I am in the wrong place at the wrong time!

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)