The Great Comet of 1861

The Great Comet of 1861

The Great Comet of 1861 was “discovered” today, May 13, 1861, by John Tebbutt, a sheep farmer and amateur astronomer of Windsor, New South Wales, Australia.

(An impression of the great comet of 1861 as seen from Kent on the evening of June 30th. The Earth is believed to have passed through the comet’s tail on this day. Painting © Chris Chatfield.)

“The comet of 1861 was not the most spectacular of the nineteenth century (that probably being the comet of 1811) or the most beautiful, which was Donati’s of 1858, but its appearance was dramatic, and it interacted with the Earth in an almost unprecedented way. For a while the Earth was actually within the comet’s tail, and the inhabitants of this planet had a brief but giddy view of streams of cometary material converging towards the distant nucleus. By day also the Sun was dimmed as the Earth ploughed through the comet’s gas and dust.”

More about the Comet of 1861 here.