“I’m going to discover something”

In introducing this book – about one of the brightest comets ever to pass by planet earth – the author Thomas Hockey, Professor of Astronomy, shares the origins of his passion:

“My interest in astronomy started early in my childhood when my father held me on his lap on the porch, and we watched a large meteor shower together. What were those flashes in the sky? Were the stars really falling? As I grew older my Dad explained how the constellations formed patterns in the sky, about how the stars were really suns like our own, and about the moon and planets. I would spend long winter evenings on a hill in the woods watching the Aurora Borealis dance in curtains across the northern sky I told my father that someday when I grow up and become an astronomer “I’m going to discover something “.


Our son Andrew was born when Hale-Bopp was at its brightest in the sky above us.

“The appearance of comet Hale-Bopp near the Earth in 1997 has generated wide scientific, public, religious and pseudoscientific interest. Scientists are interested in the unusually high intrinsic brightness of the comet. The public expect the comet to be a spectacle sight.”

The day Andrew was born I bought him a teddy-bear: that bear is called ‘Hale Bopp’ and appears in many of my films.


Frost hit Tillybin and froze the night.
Bitingly cold and startlingly clear.
A night that stirred the soul
A night of Spectacle Sight.

Midnight came rhythmically
Andrew beating his drum:
Sian said ‘time to go!’
The windscreen iced over in anticipant celebration
hands that felt no cold rubbed hurriedly
a telescope to the soul.

The car coughed to life
The farm track bumped and hurdled
– as if urging.
Count the gaps: count the rhythm –
Faster: No time to waste!

Fly the pot-holes
Peer the telescope!
Gosh – what’s that? A jewel. A wonder. A spectacle sight.
Hale-bopp: such Brightness.
SUCH BRIGHTNESS.
Beat the drum, fly the night, catch a star

4.04
and Hale-Bop reigns its brightest!
SUCH BRIGHTNESS.
Peter and Sian
Now ‘mum & dad’

Fingers could not dial
Lips that could not speak
‘we have a boy… a lovely boy’
Beat the drum, Fly the night, Catch a star!

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