Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 22.djvu/303

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JANUARY, 1883.

By Professor C. A. YOUNG.

THE comet which is fading in the morning sky is one of the most interesting that has ever appeared. Few, if any, have ever been more brilliant, and though others have been larger, and have continued visible for a longer time, none of them have presented more remarkable phenomena.

Of late we have been much favored in the matter of bright comets. According to the list given by Humboldt in his "Cosmos," it appears that the average interval between such apparitions for the last five centuries has been something like eight years. During the last fifty years the frequency has been about the same, conspicuous comets having appeared in 1835, 1843, 1858, 1861, 1862, and 1874. But since the beginning of 1880 we have already had five which were visible to the naked eye, and three of them comets of the highest rank. The comet of 1880 was indeed visible only in the southern hemisphere; but we all remember the fine comet which appeared in June, 1881, and was not much, if at all, inferior to the present one. Schäberle's comet, which followed in August, would have been regarded as very satisfactory had its predecessor been less brilliant; and Wells's comet of last summer, though not well seen in the United States, was a very respectable comet in South Africa.

It is not yet certain when or where the present comet was first seen, but, so far as now appears, the priority belongs to Dr. Gould, or one of his assistants, at the observatory of Cordoba in South America. In a private letter to Mr. Chandler, of Cambridge, mainly occupied with other matters, Dr. Gould, under date of September 15th, mentions that a brilliant comet had been visible there near the celestial equator for "more than a week": he had already two observations, and was