Monday, November 07, 2011

Tippecanoe and the Comet Too

Today is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Tippecanoe, so naturally I poked around a little and found out about other things. I have a knack for tangential learning.

Also 200 years ago, the people of the world were treated to the Great Comet of 1811 -- and presumably both sides at Tippecanoe saw it overhead. The Comet Primer says, "One of the largest comets in history was the Great Comet of 1811. It was one of the few comets in history to be discovered with a relatively small telescope at an unusually great distance from the Sun, in this case over half-way to the planet Jupiter's orbit. The nucleus has been estimated as between 30 and 40 kilometers in diameter. At one point during September to October 1811, the coma reached a diameter roughly equivalent to the diameter of the Sun and was a very notable naked-eye object seen by people around the world."

We need one like that to liven up the sky again in our time. After all, it's been a while since Hale-Bopp, and the 1811 comet sounds brighter yet (even though Hale-Bopp was bright enough to see within the city of Chicago). A new comet might help make up for the visual disappointments of the most recent Halley's and Kohoutek before that. Even better would be the entertainment provided by those who see the end of the world in such an event -- and there would be such people. Along with others to help them prepare for the end of the world, for a small fee.

The fine radio program Stardate did a two-parter about the Comet of 1811 recently. This is Part One and Part Two of the program, in transcript and podcast form.

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