An informative and engaging account of the history, structure and origins of comets and their place in the solar system, written by the well-known astronomer.
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A highly informative account of those elusive visitors from space that have mystified man for many centuries. Past civilisations considered comets to be harbingers of disaster or omens of divine intent; military successes and failures were often attributed to the appearance of a comet over the battle field. And in 1456, Pope Calistus III was said to have excommunicated a comet (later charted by and named after Edmond Halley) as an agent of the devil!
Patrick Moore sets out by explaining the basic structure of a comet and its relation to the rest of the solar system, describing the effects that the planets – especially Jupiter – can have on comets' orbits. The author indicates that anyone with keen eyesight can become a comet hunter, and may be able to contribute information about position, orbit, brightness and periodicity.
The book also describes the famous comets of the past: Halley's comet, the first comet to be recognised as periodical; Biela's comet, which split in two and dissolved into a shower of shooting stars; and the recent crop of comets such as Bennett's, Arend-Roland, Ikeyi-Seki, West's, and the great comet disappointment of 1973–4, Kohoutek.
The book is illustrated with explanatory diagrams and photographs, and includes tables of the known periodic comets and a glossary of terms. It will be invaluable for both the amateur astronomer and the casual viewer of the night sky.
1. Visitors from Space
2. The Lore of Comets
3. The Paths of Comets
4. The Comet-Hunters
5. Encke's Comet – and Others
6. Halley's Comet
7. Great Comets
8. Lost Comets
9. Whence Come the Comets?
I. Periodical comets which have been observed at more than one return
Lost periodical comets
Periodical comets seen at only one return
II. Some notable comets seen since 1680
Sir Patrick Moore (1923–2012), renowned in the field of astronomy, became a member of the British Astronomical Society and a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society as a boy. Well able to remember the problems that beset the amateur beginner, he devoted much of his life helping young people in the field. His positions included Vice-President of the British Astronomical Association and Director of the Mercury and Venus section of the British Astronomical Association. Such significant contributions him earned both an O.B.E. and a knighthood. His frequent lectures and radio and television broadcasts gained him a large audience throughout much of the world and great respect as an expert and authority in his field.