Nevada Appeal at 150: May 20, 1910: Comet’s tail served, missing Earth entirely

May 20, 1910

Comet’s tail swerved, missing Earth entirely

In all parts of the world astronomers are puzzling over the action of Halley’s comet. Wednesday at 4 o’clock p.m. was the time fixed for the earth to enter the tail of the visitor but there has so far been nothing doing. In all the observatories of the earth scientists are studying the strange phenomenon and are at a loss to account for the condition. The head of the comet carried out its part of the contract but the tail swerved to one side. It is expected that the earth will enter the tail at most any time now.

Failure of astronomers correctly to ascertain the moment of the earth’s entering the comet’s tail is explained in this way:

Until yesterday morning the comet, being between the earth and the sun, it was impossible to determine the extent of the curve of the tail. Gazed at through telescopes on this planet, the under side of the tail, which was toward the earth, appeared to be straight. The eye was deceived. It was not until this morning, when the comet arose beyond the sun, that the extent of the curvature could be detected. When the sun’s rays reflected on the upper side, the great sweep of the tail could be seen.

So light are the gases forming the tail of the comet that it cannot be figured definitely just where to begin. Thus, the exact moment of the earth’s entry cannot be determined. The stethoscope reveals nothing. This morning’s observations, however, showed that we had drawn very close to the streamer. It was more clearly defined and afforded a magnificent spectacle, stretching like the glow of a magnificent searchlight from the eastern horizon clear through the Milky Way and well past the zenith.

Many shooting stars were seen in the comet’s tail yesterday morning after the mood had set. The metoric activity afforded a brilliant sight.

This continues the Appeal’s review of news stories and headlines during its Sesquicentennial year.


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