Sol Monitor. Not the challenging career step Khss was promised. The only action was on the third planet, where terrapods had spent the last sixty char perfecting self-degradation. But today’s news on the revelator puckered Khss’s gas bag.
It could mean reassignment.
In southern Virginia’s James River State Park, Kim Kenny set up his presentation for the Crewe Astronomy Club. This was a public viewing, so he expected visitors in addition to club members. The sky was cloudless with a late rising moon, perfect for the night’s agenda: three planets—Jupiter, Mars and Saturn—and the globular cluster M4 in the constellation Scorpius.
Kim had observed M4 several times already this month and had saved a time exposure on his laptop. But tonight something had changed. Comparing the current image with the exposure from two days before, he saw that one of the stars had moved away from the cluster.
M4 is the closest known star cluster to Earth, yet still 7000 light years away. The movement was a nearer object, much nearer. Since he found nothing in the registry, he thought perhaps he’d found a new comet.
Kim sent the celestial coordinates to NASA’s Asteroid and Comet Watch and to the Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia. They forwarded the data to astronomers around the world. The Keck Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii confirmed their worst fears and sent out the press release:
“An object, classified as a comet, will strike the Earth next Tuesday, shortly after noon Eastern Standard Time, near Lagos, Nigeria. Twelve kilometers in diameter, the comet is expected to hit with a force of 6.2×1023 joules, half again as great as the impact that struck the Yucatan 66 million years ago and killed the last of the dinosaurs. Scientists expect only primitive life forms and those deep in the ocean to survive.”
Khss stirred the revelator for third planet reactions:
Wall Street Journal: Stock Market To Close Early Tuesday In Anticipation of Comet Strike; All Major Indices Decline.
New York Times: Asteroid Strike To Destroy All Life, Minorities, Women Most Affected; Climate Model Predicts Comet Impact Will Increase Global Temperatures.
Washington Post: ACLU Blocks Religious Gatherings In Public Spaces; Harvard Professor Fired Over Comet Comment.
USA Today: European Leaders To Meet In Paris To Discuss Comet; Protesters Question Sources Of Astronomers’ Funding.
Khss’s assistant fluoresced, “Shall we redirect the comet?”