This month the comet named NEOWISE has been visible both at sunrise and sunset. The cloud cover tonight in the Midwest prevents a good glimpse, but tomorrow, July 23rd, the comet will come to its closest approach to our Earth as gravity flings it into the cosmos. It should be visible with the naked eye in the evening below Ursa Major in the northwest sky.
Astronomers believe the comet will return in 6700 years. They believe this comet’s last circuit through our solar system was 4400 years ago. Some highlights from the last time this comet graced us:
• Human expansion continued around the world including sub-Saharan Africa and Mexico
• Bronze Age began in north Ancient China
• Stonehenge construction largely completed
• Horses were tamed and used for transport
• The last woolly mammoth goes extinct on Wrangel island
• Glass appears
Bronze, glass, and the domestication of horses might not seem significant to us, but they serve as important milestones of human development. The extinction of the woolly mammoth disappoints me…I think they would have made great pets. At the same time, I wonder who will observe NEOWISE’s return. What advance or retreat of humanity will we make in the next 6700 years? Will we have come to peace with one another? Will we shake with fear, and anger, and contempt? Will we acknowledge our differences, embrace our diversity, and exercise our unity?
Astronomers discovered the approaching comet on March 27th, 2020. While we focused on COVID-19, astronomers with their eyes fixed heavenward discovered the comet. While nations and races warred, the astronomers mapped and charted the movements of chunk of ice arcing wide across our solar system. While politicians politicked, while fingers pointed, while people died and lived and were birthed, these astronomers watched the larger drama. I find it amazing what we can discover when we look beyond ourselves.
I think of the three magi, the three magicians, the three astronomers from the east visiting Jesus as three disheveled kids in every Christmas pageant ever. Politicians politicked. Fingers pointed. People died, lived and were birthed. They kept their eyes fixed heavenward and watched the larger drama. They looked beyond themselves and saw more.
I believe we need to keep our eyes fixed heavenward. I believe we need to appreciate the larger drama. I believe we need to look beyond ourselves and see more.
There’s clearly more up there. There’s clearly more down here.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.