'This could be the meteor shower of the century!"
"Don't miss tonight's once-in-a-lifetime Chartreuse Moon."
"Look to the east to see the ultra-rare, Six Planet Alignment around the crescent moon -- it only happens every 100,000 years!"
Really -- is anything more hyped than astronomical events? And talk about over-promise and under-deliver. Just speaking for myself, they never seem to pan out, for a variety of reasons.
More often than not, it's cloud cover. If could be clear as a bell for weeks, but the mere mention of a spectacular sky event will generate a thick wave of clouds that usually dissipate after said event concludes.
Such was the case this week for the tau Herculids meteor shower, featuring the shattered remains of Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 (doesn't roll off the tongue, does it?), which some pundits predicted could generate as many as 1,000 fireballs an hour.
While it didn't deliver to nearly that scale, it didn't matter. As Judy Collins sang in "Both Sides Now": 'Clouds got in my way."
While we're picking nits, what's the deal with when these things occur? "Optimal viewing will be from 2-3 a.m."
Let's see. Set an alarm and hope not only the skies will be clear but also the promised spectacle actually happens.
It's particularly painful for me since I have been a wanna-be astronomer since I coerced my parents into buying me a telescope at age nine. Many nights were spent in my backyard trying to zero in on the rings of Saturn and examining craters on the moon.
But aside from moving to the deserts of Chile or a hut atop a Hawaii volcanic peak, I'll have to be content with enjoying the images from Hubble or the new James Webb observatory.
Of course, Halley's Comet is set to make a return in 2061. Is it too early to check the long-range forecast?
Yes, I know it's spelled like "Jerry." No, I don't know why it's pronounced "Gary."