Printer Friendly

Comet rediscovered 10 trips later.

Comet rediscovered 10 trips later

A comet "discovered" on Jan. 7 by amateur astronomer Howard J. Brewington of Cloudcroft, N.M., turns out to be the reappearance of one initially reported 84 years ago. No astronomer spotted the comet during its 10 intervening elliptical trips around the sun.

Joel Hastings Metcalf of Taunton, Mass., the comet's original observer, spotted the small object Nov. 15, 1906. Calculations from his observations and others indicate the comet orbits the sun about once every 7 years and 9 months. Brian G. Marsden of the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass., detected a similarity in the orbits of Metcalf's and Brewington's comets, then established they were identical.

Now called Metcalf-Brewington, the comet apparently brightened far more during its recent transit near the sun than durings its previous 10 passes, Marsden says -- perhaps 10,000 times more. He notes that independent "discoveries" made a few hours after Brewington's by Tsuruhiko Kiuchi in Japan and by William Bradfield in Australia confirm the brightening.

In fact, the comet apparently brightened rapidly, Marsden says -- possibly because a surface crack developed and exposed icy comet material to sunlight. Just two days before Brewington's "discovery," Japanese astronomer Masaaki Tanaka photographed a region of the sky through which Metcalf-Brewington was passing. In that picture, the comet is less than 0.5 percent as bright as when Brewington first spied it.

Temple 1, first reported in 1867, holds the current record for consecutive unseen returns by a comet -- 13 times.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Science Service, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:now called Metcalf-Brewington after its two discoverers, Howard J. Brewington in 1991 and Joel Hastings Metcalf in 1906
Publication:Science News
Date:Feb 2, 1991
Words:247
Previous Article:NASA recruits its SETI team.
Next Article:U.S. skies harbor ozone destroyer.
Topics:


Related Articles
The ICE plan cometh.
Confirming a comet's belated return.
A comet's fiery finale.
Future visit to a comet.
A comet is coming ... again: a newly discovered comet may be the brightest in decades.
Power to the People.
Comet LINEAR: Breaking up isn't hard to do.
AS MEAN AS THEY WANNA BE : CALIFORNIA TOWN RAISES FUNDS WITH HOOT OF MOCK MAYORAL CAMPAIGN.
BASEBALL ROUNDUP : YANKEES GET RECORD SLICE FROM SERIES.
Family and Frontier in Colonial Brazil: Santana de Parnaiba, 1580-1822.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters