WARRENSBURG, Mo. — Fred Bruenjes will never forget the night in 1986 when he fell in love with the heavens.
“Every 76 years you get to see it. It’s a big deal when Haley’s Comet comes,” said Bruenjes who owns a company that makes solar films, telescopes and other equipment used in space observatories around the world. “I was a little kid looking up into the sky with my dad’s binoculars, and it was really cool to see something moving up there. Now, I’m here 26 years later and I’ve discovered one of my own.”
The amateur astronomer recently used his self-built observatory to make an out-of-this world discovery.
“I was over the moon,” said Bruenjes. “It’s a dream come true. It’s something to cross off the bucket list because going back 25 years, this is a goal I’ve been working towards and to finally fulfill that it really cool.”
Bruenjes is one of only a handful of people who have spotted an unknown comet. Because he was the first to spot this one, NASA named the ball of ice, dust and gas racing through outer space at 10,000 miles per hour after him.
“It’s incredible,” said Bruenjes. “It blew my mind when I looked at NASA’s website. They now have the comet listed. You see this thing flying through space — there’s me, traveling through the solar system. They’ve got my name on that little rock. Just flying through space exploring the solar system.”
While his bucket list initially got one item shorter, Bruenjes has since set a new goal.
“I’m going to keep looking,” he said. “I want to find another one. I want to find a bigger one, a brighter one. Something that’s going to crash into mars. Let’s find something interesting.”
Until then, Bruenjes said he’ll keep his eyes towards the sky.
Bruenjes said his comet was a discovery that almost wasn’t. You see, his camera crashed on the first round of pictures. He almost gave up, but decided to try again. It was in the second round that he discovered the comet that would be named after him.
To see the comet for yourself, head over to his website for information on how to spot it in the sky.