FIREBALL: Meteors and other heavenly bodies have inspired many stories through the years.
FIREBALL: Meteors and other heavenly bodies have inspired many stories through the years. contributed

DARK SKIES: So many tales told about the heavens

EVER since humans have been walking this planet, we have been fascinated by water, ice, fire and the stars.

Over many centuries the stars have spawned religious beliefs, songs, poems, books, novels and even movies, and yet we still look in awe at a starry night sky.

However this was not the case when early cave dwellers - long before the Celtic, Druids, Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Mayan empires - believed the stars and patterns of stars called constellations were the eyes and homes of gods.

Whenever a solar or lunar eclipse occurred, these ancient tribes even sacrificed animals and humans to appease the gods, all to no avail.

In pre-biblical times, many tribes thought a meteor (shooting star) was a sign the gods were punishing those who dared oppose them and a meteor shower - thousands of tiny comet-tail dust particles burning up in the upper atmosphere of Earth - was believed by many to be the gods punishing those who opposed them.

High priests who instilled fear into the tribe knew very well that those in higher positions had complete control of the masses.

In the mid-1600s, comets were said to be the 'death of kings', while others believed it was a sign of relevance.

Superstition arose, causing many to believe the end of the world was nigh.

In 1910, when Halley's Comet appeared over New York City after a 75-year absence, many people took their lives, believing the comet was going to wipe out Earth.

'Comet Pills' sold like hot cakes, believing the pills would stop you from getting sick if the Earth passed through the dust tail of the comet.

Wall Street and banks took a massive hit as millions withdrew their stocks and savings.

It was ignorance and the power of the pen, not religion or politicians, that caused this panic.

Author, humorist and novelist Mark Twain, born in 1835 on the eve of Halley's Comet, once said he would go on its return.

Mark Twain died in 1910, 75 years to the day.

When the comet returned in April 1986, millions worldwide got to see this interloper. Halley's Comet returns in 2061.

Playwright Orson Welles produced the famous 1938 radio play from the Mercury Theatre in New York, War of the Worlds, causing mass hysteria across the US, believing the Earth was being invaded by martians.

Today in this digital world of 7billion humans, 4000 satellites, four space telescopes, billions of electronic and digital devices, we're constantly being bombarded with digital information.

Truth be known, we know more about the universe than we do of our oceans.

We no longer sell Comet Pills nor create mass hysteria with radio plays, yet one day in the far distant future, when humans have found a habitable planet for survival, they, like their ancestors, may repeat history, where fear and ignorance overtook logic and normality.

If you have an astronomical-related question or want to book a stargazing night at the observatory, email or phone 0427961391. Visit