For my birthday this morning, the asteroid “(52768) 1998 OR2” is waving “Hiya!” as he whips by my native planet, from the close distance of four million miles, at a speed of nearly 17,000 knots. He is only a mile or two wide, but NASA tells us that’s good enough for an extinction event, and so we’re not to play chicken with him. I, however, am sick of being told what to do by officious, control-freak science types. They name these things as if they were diseases, and even on a red-letter day like today, are no fun at all.

The asteroid himself would appear to be tumbling in his habitually cheerful way, as he essays his closest approach to the Sun and, I assume, adjusts his make-up slightly. (Is he wearing black-face?) Wanting a better view, I have consulted Internet astronomy sites, but he is hard to resolve amid the fundraising pop-ups and subscription offers.

Of course he never asked, and probably didn’t expect to be treated with august formality on the one hand, or even a sporting levity on the other, by an Earth-based space agency, in this age of crass commercialism. Best to ignore us, and go shooting along. As his orbit approximately intersects with ours, he will have more opportunities to test our responses. On this pass, hills and ridges at one of his ends make it look like he is wearing a Batflu mask. But while he is classified as a PHO (“potentially hazardous object”) he is not anti-social, and is just waving d’accord, and then, adieu, adieu, adieu.

Salut, mon petit astéroïde!

He will return in 2079, I gather, when I will be enjoying my 126th solar revolution, unless I have moved. By some Australian calculation he will pass within one million miles next time. We will still need a telescope to see him. Frankly, I’d prefer an asteroid that can be seen with the naked eye, and pull up some tide. But then I am a thrill-seeker; today I plan to attempt another walk, if I can make it, right across Parkdale.