Thursday 9 October 2008

Comet Donati, from a painting of 1858.

One hundred and fifty years ago today, on Saturday 9 October 1858, the Warminster Herald reported:

"The Comet was seen to great advantage on Tuesday evening. Between seven and eight o'clock the star Arcturus was seen brightly through the luminous tail near the nucleus. The comet will be nearest the earth about midnight on Sunday next, when its distance from us will be 51,000,000 miles."

This was Comet Donati (also referred to as Donati's Comet), named after the Italian astronomer Giovanni Battista Donati, who first observed it on 2nd June 1858.

The star Arcturus mentioned in the Herald's report is in the constellation Bootes, and is the bright star near the comet's head in the painting above.

Comet Donati was last seen on 4th March 1859, and it's next perihelion isn't expected until the year 3811.