When David Deskins was in grammar school and first heard about a brilliant streak of light named Comet Halley, he had only one reaction: "I wanted to see that rascal!"

Twenty-five years later, he got his wish. The comet meant so much to the coal miner from Pikeville, Ky., that he wrote a book, Looking Back: Amateur Adventures With Halley's Comet 1985-86, which features more than 150 photographs, including 43 brilliant color plates, from the cameras of amateurs as far away as England, China and Australia.

The book project began when Deskins, who holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from Pikeville College, placed a small advertisement in Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines, asking fellow sky gazers for Comet Halley photos. The response was overwhelming: Photographs and personal vignettes poured in.

One of the most striking color pictures was taken from Virginia's Skyline Drive. Edward M. Calvert Jr. and Sandra Ogle of Baltimore took a shot of the comet as it zipped over the night lights of Sperryville.

Robert O'Dell of Austin, Tex., reported in Deskins' book on the comet mania as it swept over the Lone Star state. A big crowd gathered at McKinney Falls State Park, where the Austin Astronomical Society had set up telescopes for public viewing.

"Shorty after 7 p.m. I counted 115 people in line for Mike McCant's 10-inch telescope," O'Dell wrote. "At this point the parking lots were filled, people were parking on the grass and cars were backed up a mile."

Deskins also made sure that the people in Pikeville, which is close to the Virginia border, would see the comet. "I had shown Halley to 55 friends ...

"Among those who came to see it was Mr. W.T. Huffman ... and he was here to take his second look.

"He was 8 years old in 1910. When he took his turn at the telescope he looked carefully, stepped back and informed me that he had now seen {it} twice, thanked me and he was soon gone, satisfied, I think."

Looking Back ($19.95) can be ordered through Intrinsic Publishing, Box 1137, Pikeville, Ky. 41501.

In the current sky:

Other than the moon and the sun, Jupiter is this month's brightest celestial object. In astronomical terms, this gaseous planet shines at a -2.7 magnitude (very bright) high in the southern sky, in the middle of the evening. By month's end, Jupiter will rise early in the evening.

Saturn loiters in the evening sky, low in the south-southwest. This planet shines at near-zero magnitude, making it moderately bright. Of course, this gaseous sphere still is visible with the naked eye, but viewing is enhanced with binoculars or a telescope.

Appropriately enough, Mars took a summer vacation. Mars gets up early in the morning, working its way into the pre-dawn hours. By month's end Mars will beam from the eastern horizon. The viewing is poor but it improves as the sky turns into October.

Kickoff time for autumn is 9:45 a.m. EDT, Sept. 23. It is called the Autumnal Equinox and on this day and time, the sun will appear to cross the Earth's equator on its journey toward the Tropic of Capricorn. While leaves fall in the Northern Hemisphere, spring begins in the Southern Hemisphere.

Autumn's Annular Eclipse occurs on Sept. 22. It's not visible from the 48 contiguous states, but for those fortunate enough to be in the Eastern Hemisphere or Hawaii, there's a good chance to catch the moon blotting out part of the sun.