Cosmic Wonder: Halley’s Comet and Humankind
Candlewick Press, 2023
40pp., hbk., RRP $A34.99
Over 4.6 billion years ago, about the same time the rest of our solar system was created, a comet was born – one that now visits this planet on its long orbit around the planets and the sun and beyond, only once is a person’s lifetime. Unlike many others that are comparatively short-lived because they lose ice and debris each time they pass a star, this one has survived and for those lucky enough to be alive in 2061 it will light up our skies once again.
Named after the Edward Halley, the astronomer and mathematician who calculated that the comets that had been seen in the skies in 1531, 1607, and 1682 were one and the same and accurately predicted that it would return in 1758, Halley’s Comet has been orbiting since time immemorial, the last time being in 1986. During that time it has seen so many changes on this planet as humans developed and with their curiosity and creativity have transformed it.
Essentially then, this is a history of Earth seen from the comet’s perspective as it makes its regular sweeps told in simple, almost lyrical, language and depicted in stunning artworks. Tracing the changes (which are summarised in the final pages) it tells the story of the planet’s development from a time when nothing and no one saw it light up the night sky to that of a lone teacher fascinated by it perched like Humpty Dumpty on a wall in her garden in 1986. (I have no idea why scaling a 2 metre wall would give me a better view but there I was…)
As well as giving the reader a unique perspective on history, showing us just how small we are and how short our time here is, this is one not only to explore the other bodies in the universe but also to consider what the comet might see when it returns in 2061, provoking all sorts of textual and artistic responses. What would they like it to see? They might even consider what their contribution to those changes might be.
Innovative and visually outstanding, this is such a different way to view the world that it will capture not only those budding astronomers but also those who dream and wonder and imagine… Another reason to have a rich and vibrant non fiction collection.