Letter | Published:

The Present Southern Comet



EITHER the present brilliant southern comet is periodic, or one of a large family of comets, moving in similar orbits and possessing marked similarities of structure. Its orbit, as far as an orbit can be determined from the approximate positions of a very indefinite nucleus, is similar to those of the 1843 and 1880 comets. In Grant's “History of Astronomy” the following description of the 1668 comet occurs:—It appeared a little above the western horizon. The tail measured 23° in length, and resembled a huge beam of light. The head was so small as to be scarcely visible. The observations will be represented with sufficient accuracy by the elements of the orbit of the comet of 1843.” A fairly accurate description of the present comet. There are other comets—1618, 1689, 1702—which possess this strong family likeness. If these comets be not one and the same, they must all have had a common origin. I do not know if it has been noticed that the aphelia of their orbits lie within a few degrees of Sirius. It may be possible that they have all been ejected from that gigantic sun; at any rate, it is impossible that they could have been attracted from nebulous masses lying beyond Sirius.

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