Looking at the Comet
DESCRIPTION: She asks what he is doing: "Tell me this very moment." He says he "was gazing at the comet"
EARLIEST DATE: 1861 (Poet's Box broadside "Looking at the Comet," according to GreigDuncan7)
FOUND IN: Britain(Scotland(Aber))
REFERENCES (1 citation):
GreigDuncan7 1508, "The Comet" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
NOTES: The current description is based on the GreigDuncan7 fragment.
GreigDuncan7 quoting Duncan: "'The comet' was no doubt Donati's (1858)." - BS
According to Illingworth, p. 120, "Donati's comment (1858 VI)[:] A spectacular comet famous for its coma with muliple haloes: parabolic envelopes with vertices toward the sun and foci near the apparent nucleus."
In the table of comets on 284 of Lodders/Fegley. we find that comet Donati (C/1888 L1) approavhed to within .578 AU of the sun (about half earth's distance), and that it has a period of about about 1950 years. Thus the sighting in 1858 is the only one in the modern era.
Porter, p. 191, says that "Donati's comet, which was first cited on 2 June 1858, was notable for its great beauty. It had, in addition to its major 'tail,' two narrow extra tails. It even featured in William Dyce's painting 'Pegwell Bay.'"
Asimov, pp. 387-388, says that Giovanni Battista Donati (1826-1873), who spotted the comet, discovered five other comets in his life, none so spectacular as the comet of 1858. More important from a scientific standpoint, was his taking of spectra of a comet in 1864 as it neared the sun. This was an important step in determining the composition of comets.
Of course, there is no hint that this particular fellow was doing scientific research on the comet. But isn't it time we found a few folk songs for scientists? - RBW
Last updated in version 2.5
- Asimov: Isaac Asimov, Isaac Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science & Technology, revised edition, 1972 (I use the 1976 Equinox edition)
- Illingworth: Valerie Illingworth, The Facts of File Dictionary of Astronomy, third edition, Facts on File, 1994
- Lodders/Fegley: Katharina Lodders and Bruce Fegley, Jr., The Planetary Scientist's Companion, Oxford, 1998
- Porter: Roy Porter, consultant editor, The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists, second edition (first edition published in six volumes, 1983-1985, as The Biographical Dictionary of Scientists with volumes on Biologists, Chemists, Astronomers, Physicists, Engineers and Inventors, and Mathematicians), Oxford, 1994
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