Biela's Comet or Comet Biela (official designation: 3D/Biela) was a periodic Jupiter-family comet first recorded in 1772 by Montaigne and Messier and finally identified as periodic in 1826 by Wilhelm von Biela. It was subsequently observed to split in two and has not been seen since 1852. As a result, it is currently considered to have been destroyed, although remnants appeared to have survived for some time as a meteor shower, the Andromedids.
Biela's Comet in February 1846, soon after it split into two pieces
|Discovered by||Wilhelm von Biela|
|Discovery date||February 27, 1826|
|1772; 1806 I; 1832 III;|
1846 II; 1852 III;
|Orbital characteristics A|
|Epoch||September 29, 1852 |
|Semi-major axis||3.5253 AU|
|Orbital period||6.619 a|
|Last perihelion||September 24, 1852|
|Next perihelion||Disintegrated in 1852|
The comet was first recorded on 8 March 1772 by Jacques Leibax Montaigne; during the same apparition it was independently discovered by Charles Messier. It was also recorded in 1805 by Jean-Louis Pons, but was not recognized as the same object. After the 1805 apparition a number of attempts were made by Gauss (1806) and Bessel (1806) to calculate a definitive orbit, Gauss and Olbers both noting a similarity between the 1805 and 1772 comets, but it was not possible to prove a link.
It was Wilhelm von Biela, an army officer serving at the fortress town of Josefstadt, who observed the comet during its 1826 perihelion approach (on February 27) and calculated its orbit, discovering it to be periodic with a period of 6.6 years. At the time it was only the third comet known to be periodic, after comets Halley and Encke. The comet was named after Biela, although there was initially some controversy due to a later but independent discovery by Jean-Félix Adolphe Gambart, who also provided the first mathematical proof linking the 1826 and 1805 comets (letters from Biela and Gambart were published in the same issue of the Astronomische Nachrichten). A third claim was made by Thomas Clausen, who had independently linked the comets.
The comet appeared as predicted during its 1832 apparition, when it was first recovered by John Herschel on 24 September. The orbital elements and ephemeris calculated by Olbers for this return created something of a popular sensation, as they showed that the comet's coma would likely pass through the Earth's orbit during a close approach on October 29. Subsequent predictions, in the media of the time, of the Earth's likely destruction overlooked the fact that the Earth itself would not reach this point until November 30, a month later, as pointed out by François Arago in an article designed to allay public fears. Despite this, the fact that Biela's Comet was the only comet known to intersect the Earth's orbit was to make it of particular interest, both to astronomers and the public, during the 19th century.
The 1839 apparition was extremely unfavourable and no observations were made.
The comet was recovered on November 26, 1845, by Francesco de Vico. Initially a small, faint nebulosity, subsequent observations showed that something remarkable had happened to it. Matthew Fontaine Maury, observing on 14 January 1846, noted that an apparent companion was located 1 arc minute north of the comet. After this announcement many astronomers began observing the comet, and noted that the two elements (usually referred to as "Comet A" and "Comet B" in modern nomenclature) alternated in brightness, developing parallel tails as they approached perihelion. Some observations indicated an "archway of cometary matter" extending between the two nuclei, which might suggest that the comet had split into many more pieces than two, but were simply too faint to be observed individually.
In 1852 the comet was again recovered more or less as predicted, with "Comet A" being recovered first, by Angelo Secchi on August 26. "Comet B" was finally relocated on September 16, and once again both nuclei alternated in brightness during the period of observation. "A" was last detected on this apparition on September 26 and "B" on September 29, in both cases by Otto Wilhelm Struve. Subsequent orbital calculations indicated that the nuclei had probably split around 500 days before the 1845 apparition, though more recent work has determined that it may have occurred near aphelion in late 1842.
Neither part could be found on their predicted periodic returns in 1859 (in any case an unfavourable return for viewing), 1865, and 1872. However, on November 27, 1872, a brilliant meteor shower (3,000 per hour) was observed radiating from the part of the sky where the comet had been predicted to cross in September 1872. This was the date when Earth intersected the comet's trajectory. These meteors became known as the Andromedids or "Bielids" and it seems apparent that they were produced by the breakup of the comet. The meteors were seen again on subsequent occasions for the rest of the 19th century, but have now faded away, probably due to gravitational disruption of the main filaments.
There were, however, inconclusive observations during the 1865 and 1872 returns. Charles Talmage, using ephemerides provided by John Russell Hind, claimed to have briefly observed a nebulous object in approximately the right position in November 1865. James Buckingham also observed two nebulosities in 1865 after studying Hind's predictions, but Hind subsequently stated that they were unlikely to be Biela's Comet, as they were much closer together than the two components of the comet should have been. A puzzling observation recorded as X/1872 X1, seen by N. R. Pogson in late 1872 from the Madras Observatory, was also speculated to be a recovery of Biela's Comet, though once again this was later shown to have been unlikely.
Despite the apparent destruction of the comet, there were a number of searches for it during the later 20th century. Brian G. Marsden and Zdeněk Sekanina attempted to calculate a likely orbit for any remaining parts of the comet; it was during a search using Marsden's calculations that Luboš Kohoutek discovered Comet Kohoutek. It has been calculated that the mass of the debris left in the Andromedid meteor stream is still much less than the total mass of the comet. Given that it is more likely that the main mass loss occurred near aphelion before the 1845 apparition, it seems possible that fragment A at least may still exist as a 'dormant' comet.
There have been several attempts to identify objects discovered subsequently either as Biela's Comet or as a remnant of it. The German astronomer Karl Ristenpart attempted several times to prove a link with the comet now known as 18D/Perrine-Mrkos, which had a very similar orbit to Biela apart from a differing Argument of Perihelion. Despite this, it was not possible to prove any relationship and Perrine-Mrkos, an intrinsically faint object, has itself since been lost. Comet 207P/NEAT (P/2001 J1), discovered in 2001 by the NEAT asteroid survey, was also found to have a similar orbit to Biela's Comet, and it was initially thought possible that it was in some way related to it.
Biela has sometimes been proposed as the source of meteoric impacts on Earth.
A fringe theory links together several major fires that occurred simultaneously in America, including the Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire, claiming that they were caused by fragments of Biela's Comet striking the Earth. The theory was first proposed by Ignatius L. Donnelly in 1883, and was revived in a 1985 book and further explored in an unpublished 2004 scientific paper. However, experts dispute such a scenario - meteorites in fact are cold to the touch when they reach the Earth's surface, and there are no credible reports of any fire anywhere having been started by a meteorite. Given the low tensile strength of such bodies, if a fragment of an icy comet were to strike the Earth, the most likely outcome would be for it to disintegrate in the upper atmosphere, leading to an air burst explosion analogous to that of the Tunguska event.
On November 27, 1885, an iron meteorite fell in northern Mexico, at the same time as a 15,000 per hour outburst of the Andromedid meteor shower. The Mazapil meteorite has sometimes been attributed to the comet, but this idea has been out of favor since the 1950s as the processes of differentiation required to produce an iron body are not believed to occur in comets.
Biela's Comet (and Comet Encke) had a role in the now-discredited concept of luminiferous aether: its orbit was found to be shrinking in size, which was ascribed to the drag of an ether through which it orbited.
18D/Perrine–Mrkos is a periodic comet in the Solar System, originally discovered by the American-Argentine astronomer Charles Dillon Perrine (Lick Observatory, California, United States) on December 9, 1896. For some time it was thought to be a fragment of Biela's Comet.It was considered lost after the 1909 appearance, but was rediscovered by the Czech astronomer Antonín Mrkos (Skalnate Pleso Observatory, Slovakia) on October 19, 1955, using ordinary binoculars, it was later confirmed as 18D by Leland E. Cunningham (Leuschner Observatory, University of California, Berkeley).
The comet was last observed during the 1968 perihelion passage when it passed 0.3144 AU (47,030,000 km; 29,230,000 mi) from the Earth. The comet has not been observed during the following perihelion passages:
1975 Aug. 2
1982 May 16
1989 Feb. 28
1995 Dec. 6
2009 Apr. 17
2017 Feb. 26The next predicted perihelion passage would be on 2025-Jan-01 but the comet is currently considered lost as it has not been seen since Jan 1969.27P/Crommelin
Comet Crommelin, also known as Comet Pons-Coggia-Winnecke-Forbes, is a periodic comet with an orbital period of almost 28 years. It fits the classical definition of a Halley-type comet with (20 years < period < 200 years). It is named after the British astronomer Andrew C. D. Crommelin who calculated its orbit in 1930. It is one of only four comets not named after their discoverer(s), the other three being Comets Halley, Encke, and Lexell.
The first observation was by Jean-Louis Pons (Marseille, France) on February 23, 1818, he followed the comet until February 27 but was prevented further by bad weather. Johann Franz Encke attempted to calculate the orbit but was left with very large errors.
In 1872, John R. Hind produced a rough orbital calculation and observed it was close to that of Comet Biela, based on these observations, Edmund Weiss later speculated it may have been part of Biela's comet.
The next observation was on November 10, 1873, by Jérôme E. Coggia (Marseille, France), and again on November 11 by Friedrich A. T. Winnecke (Strasbourg, France), but it was lost by November 16. Weiss and Hind took up the calculations and tried to match it again with the 1818 appearance.
A third discovery was by Alexander F. I. Forbes (Cape Town, South Africa) on November 19, 1928, and confirmed by Harry E. Wood (Union Observatory, South Africa) on November 21. It was Crommelin who eventually established the orbit and finally linked the 1818 (Pons) and 1873 (Coggia-Winnecke) comets to it (also see Lost comet).
On its latest return, 27P/Crommelin was recovered on May 12, 2011, at apparent magnitude 18.7 and peaked at magnitude 10.7 at perihelion on August 3.Andromedids
The Andromedids meteor shower is associated with Biela's Comet, the showers occurring as Earth passes through old streams left by the comet's tail. The comet was observed to have broken up by 1846; further drift of the pieces by 1852 suggested the moment of breakup was in either 1842 or early 1843, when the comet was near Jupiter. The breakup led to particularly spectacular showers in subsequent cycles (particularly in 1872 and 1885).In the early 19th century, before the break-up of comet 3D/Biela, the radiant was in Cassiopeia. In the last century the radiant of the modern weaker meteor shower is generally in the constellation of Andromeda as the name of the shower suggests, but due to its age and diffuseness meteors may appear to come from the neighbouring constellations, such as Pisces, Triangulum and Cassiopeia.Comet Encke
Comet Encke or Encke's Comet (official designation: 2P/Encke) is a periodic comet that completes an orbit of the Sun once every 3.3 years. (This is the shortest period of a reasonably bright comet; the faint main-belt comet 311P/PANSTARRS has a period of 3.2 years.) Encke was first recorded by Pierre Méchain in 1786, but it was not recognized as a periodic comet until 1819 when its orbit was computed by Johann Franz Encke; like Halley's Comet, it is unusual in being named after the calculator of its orbit rather than its discoverer. Like most comets, it has a very low albedo, reflecting only 4.6% of the light it receives. The diameter of the nucleus of Encke's Comet is 4.8 km.Comet Holmes
Comet Holmes (official designation: 17P/Holmes) is a periodic comet in the Solar System, discovered by the British amateur astronomer Edwin Holmes on November 6, 1892. Although normally a very faint object, Holmes became notable during its October 2007 return when it temporarily brightened by a factor of about half a million, in what was the largest known outburst by a comet, and became visible to the naked eye. It also briefly became the largest object in the Solar System, as its coma (the thin dissipating dust ball around the comet) expanded to a diameter greater than that of the Sun (although its mass remained minuscule).Comet vintages
Comet vintages are years during which an astronomical event, involving generally a "Great Comet", occurs prior to harvest. Throughout the history of wine, winemakers have attributed successful vintages and ideal weather conditions to the unexplained effects caused by the comets. Some of the most heralded vintages in the last couple of centuries—such as the 1811, 1826, 1839, 1845, 1852, 1858, 1861, 1985, and 1989 vintages—have coincided with a notable appearance of a comet. There is no scientific basis for any effect of comets on viticulture, but the term nevertheless remains in use.
The term "comet wine" is sometimes used in the wine world to describe a wine of exceptional quality in reference to the high reputation that comet vintages have. The 1811 comet vintage, coinciding with the appearance of the Great Comet of 1811, is perhaps the most famous. The 1811 Château d'Yquem has exhibited what wine experts like Robert Parker have described as exceptional longevity with Parker scoring the wine a perfect 100 points when tasted in 1996. The 1811 vintage of Veuve Clicquot is theorized to have been the first truly "modern" Champagne due to the advancements in the méthode champenoise which Veuve Clicquot pioneered through the technique of remuage.Great Chicago Fire
The Great Chicago Fire was a conflagration that burned in the American city of Chicago from October 8–10, 1871. The fire killed approximately 300 people, destroyed roughly 3.3 square miles (9 km2) of the city, and left more than 100,000 residents homeless. The fire began in a neighborhood southwest of the city center. A long period of hot, dry, windy conditions, and the wooden construction prevalent in the city lead to a conflagration. The fire leapt the south branch of the Chicago River and destroyed much of central Chicago, and then leapt the main branch of the river consuming the near north side.
Help flowed to the city from near and far after the fire. The city government improved building codes to stop the rapid spread of fire, and re-built rapidly to those higher standards. A donation from the United Kingdom spurred the establishment of the Chicago Public Library, a free public library system, a contrast to the private, fee for membership libraries common before the fire.Joseph Stillman Hubbard
Joseph Stillman Hubbard (7 September 1823 – 16 August 1863) was an American astronomer from New Haven, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale University in 1843, whither he had been attracted by Ebenezer Porter Mason, then one of Yale’s enthusiastic astronomers. Subsequently he studied mathematics and astronomy at home, and also taught for a while in a classical school, but early in 1844 he went to Philadelphia as assistant of Sears Cook Walker, who had charge of the observatory of the high-school in that city.
In the autumn of the same year he was appointed computer of the observations of latitude and longitude made on Captain John Charles Frémont’s expedition across the Rocky mountains. This work was accomplished so successfully that Professor Alexander Dallas Bache, Colonel John Charles Frémont, and Senator Thomas Hart Benton used their influence with Sec. George Bancroft to have him appointed professor of mathematics in the navy. He was so commissioned on 7 May 1845 and was immediately assigned to duty at the Washington Observatory, of which he continued to be an officer during the remainder of his life.
The first extended computation made by Prof. Hubbard after his assignment to the observatory was the determination of the zodiacs of all the known asteroids, except four previously published in Germany.
In November 1848 he presented to the Smithsonian institution the zodiacs of Vesta, Astrea, Hebe, Flora, and Metis. During the following year he prepared those of Hygea, Parthenope, and Clio, followed later by that of Egeria; and, although he published no others, it was his intention to prepare the zodiac for each successively discovered asteroid.
His skill as an observer and computer is further shown in valuable material published in the volumes of the “Washington Observations”, and his work comprised many special investigations. Of these the most important include his discussions of “The Orbit of the Great Comet of 1843”, originally contributed and published through several issues of Benjamin Apthorp Gould’s “Astronomical Journal”.
His later but equally valuable researches “On the Orbit of Biela’s Comet in 1845-’6” (1858), “Results of Additional Investigations respecting the two Nuclei of Biela’s Comet” (1854), and “On Biela’s Comet” (1858), which form the accepted authority on the subject, also appeared in the “Astronomical Journal”, to which he was a frequent contributor, and twice during Dr. Benjamin Apthorp Gould’s absence from the country he was its acting editor.
In 1845 he was elected a member of the National Institute of Washington, and in 1852 a fellow of the American Philosophical Society. Joseph Stillman Hubbard was also an original member of the National Academy of Sciences.Lost comet
A comet is "lost" when it has been missed at its most recent perihelion passage. This generally happens when data is insufficient to reliably calculate the comet's orbit and predict its location. The D/ designation is used for a periodic comet that no longer exists or is deemed to have disappeared.Lost comets can be compared to lost minor planets, although calculation of comet orbits differs because of nongravitational forces, such as emission of jets of gas from the nucleus. Some astronomers have specialized in this area, such as Brian G. Marsden, who successfully predicted the 1992 return of the once-lost periodic comet Swift–Tuttle.Messier 50
Messier 50 or M 50, also known as NGC 2323, is an open cluster of stars in the constellation Monoceros. It was recorded by G. D. Cassini before 1711 and independently discovered by Charles Messier on April 5, 1772 while observing Biela's Comet. It is sometimes described as a 'heart-shaped' figure or a blunt arrowhead.M50 is at a distance of about 3,000 light-years away from Earth and is located near the edge of the CMa OB1 association. It has a core radius of 5.9 ly (1.8 pc) and spans 17.8 ly (5.46 pc). The cluster has a 508 confirmed members with a combined mass of more than 285 M☉, for a stellar density of 1.3 stars per cubic parsec. It is around 140 million years old, with two high-mass white dwarfs and two chemically peculiar stars.N. R. Pogson
Norman Robert Pogson, CIE (23 March 1829 – 23 June 1891) was an English astronomer who worked in India at the Madras observatory. He discovered several minor planets and made observations on comets. He introduced a mathematical scale of stellar magnitudes with the ratio of two successive magnitudes being the fifth root of one hundred (~2.512) and referred to as Pogson's ratio.Naming of comets
Comets have been observed for the last 2,000 years. During that time, several different systems have been used to assign names to each comet, and as a result many comets have more than one name.
The simplest system names comets after the year in which they were observed (e.g. the Great Comet of 1680). Later a convention arose of using the names of people associated with the discovery (e.g. Comet Hale–Bopp) or the first detailed study (e.g. Halley's Comet) of each comet. During the twentieth century, improvements in technology and dedicated searches led to a massive increase in the number of comet discoveries, which led to the creation of a numeric designation scheme. The original scheme assigned codes in the order that comets passed perihelion (e.g. Comet 1970 II). This scheme operated until 1994, when continued increases in the numbers of comets found each year resulted in the creation of a new scheme. This system, which is still in operation, assigns a code based on the type of orbit and the date of discovery (e.g. C/2012 S1).Peshtigo fire
The Peshtigo fire was a very large forest fire that took place on Sunday, October 8, 1871, in northeastern Wisconsin, including much of the Door Peninsula, and adjacent parts of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The largest community in the affected area was Peshtigo, Wisconsin. It burned approximately 1,200,000 acres (490,000 ha) and was the deadliest wildfire in American history, with the estimated deaths of around 1,500 people, and possibly as many as 2,500.Occurring on the same day as the more famous Great Chicago Fire, the Peshtigo fire has been largely forgotten. On the same day as the Peshtigo and Chicago fires, Holland and Manistee, Michigan (across Lake Michigan from Peshtigo), and Port Huron at the southern end of Lake Huron also had major fires, leading to various theories by contemporaries and later historians that they had a mutual cause.The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion
"The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion" is a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, an apocalyptic science fiction story first published in Burton's Gentleman's Magazine in 1839.Vega 2
Vega 2 (along with Vega 1) is a Soviet space probe part of the Vega program. The spacecraft was a development of the earlier Venera craft. The name VeGa (ВеГа) combines the first two letters Russian words for Venus (Венера: "Venera") and Halley (Галлея: "Galleya") They were designed by Babakin Space Centre and constructed as 5VK by Lavochkin at Khimki. The craft was powered by twin large solar panels and instruments included an antenna dish, cameras, spectrometer, infrared sounder, magnetometers (MISCHA), and plasma probes. The 10,850 pounds (4,920 kg) craft was launched by a Proton 8K82K rocket from Baikonur Cosmodrome, Tyuratam, Kazakh SSR. Both Vega 1 and 2 were three-axis stabilized spacecraft. The spacecraft were equipped with a dual bumper shield for dust protection from Halley's Comet.Wilhelm von Biela
Baron Wilhelm von Biela (German: Wilhelm Freiherr von Biela; March 19, 1782 – February 18, 1856) was a German-Austrian military officer and amateur astronomer.
Wilhelm von Biela was born in Roßla, Harz (Northern Germany). He was a descendant of a prominent Protestant noble family originally from what is now the Czech Republic, the family having been exiled to Saxony after its head, Friedrich von Biela, was executed in Prague in 1621 during the religious wars of the period. Biela was the last member of his branch of the family.After study at military college in Dresden, Biela joined the Austrian army in 1802, serving as a cadet in the Infantry Regiment 'Graf Stuart' Nr. 18. He rose to the rank of a captain of Grenadiers and participated in a number of military campaigns against Napoleon between 1805, 1809 and later on. In 1813 he was an Adjutant to General Merveldt at the Battle of Leipzig, where he was wounded.In 1815 Biela went to Prague, where he commenced study of astronomy under Marin Alois David. He later served in Italy and was appointed the commandant of the town of Rovigo.In the field of astronomy, he specialized in observing and calculating the orbits of comets. He also did some sunspot observations and published a series of articles, mostly in the Astronomische Nachrichten, on subjects such as comets, the theoretical considerations of comets "falling into the Sun", Tycho Brahe, and occultations of stars by the Moon. He also published a longer work on planetary rotation, Die zweite grosse Weltenkraft, nebst Ideen über einige Geheimnisse der physischen Astronomie, oder Andeutungen zu einer Theorie der Tangentialkraft (Prague, 1836). In its preface he stated that although the work was the fruit of many years of study, it could be read through in half an hour.
Biela independently discovered two comets that others had already found (notably the Great Comet of 1823, C/1823 Y1) and made one independent discovery of his own: the periodic Biela's Comet, which subsequently split in two and disintegrated. The lunar crater Biela is named after him.
Relatively little seems to be recorded of Biela's personal life: he was married to Anna (Edle von Wallenstern) and they had a daughter Emilie Freiin von Biela, born in 1820 and married in Rovigo to Moritz, Graf Forgách, another Austrian infantry officer, by whom she had two children.In the 1840s Biela retired to Venice, where he died in 1856.
The minor planet 2281 Biela is named in his honor.X/1872 X1
X/1872 X1, occasionally referred to as "Pogson's Comet", was a probable cometary astronomical object seen from Madras (now Chennai) on December 3 and 4, 1872, by astronomer N. R. Pogson.
Pogson believed the object to be the lost Comet Biela, but subsequent orbital calculations have suggested that this was unlikely. Neither Biela's Comet nor Pogson's object have been recovered since, and the episode remains one of the most puzzling in solar system astronomy.