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November-December 1940.

Kindred Orbits "Most astronomers ... are as much annoyed at the continued existence of Encke's Comet as at its peculiar behavior. Moving in such a small orbit, almost like that of an asteroid, the comet is activated by fairly intense sunlight at all times.... How it can continue to show indefinitely as a hazy diffuse object and not be completely dissipated is truly a mystery. We now add to its list of peculiarities an association with the extensive Taurid stream of meteors [even though] the planes of the orbits are tipped about 12[degrees] with respect to each other....

A new mathematical theory for the perturbing effect of Jupiter's attraction showed that Encke's Comet does not keep the same plane for long periods of time. In less than six thousand years the orbit plane tips around like the rim of a wobbling top.... The most reasonable conclusion ... is not that the Taurid meteors arise from Encke's Comet but rather that they both have a common ancestor, some large comet that broke up ... some five thousand to fifteen thousand years ago."

Harvard astronomer Fred Whipple was famous for such linkages. Some 43 years after writing these words, he startled other astronomers when he tied the Sun-approaching asteroid 3200 Phaethon to the annual Geminid meteor shower.

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Title Annotation:75, 50 & 25 Years Ago; Encke's Comet,
Author:Sinnott, Roger W.
Publication:Sky & Telescope
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Nov 1, 2015
Previous Article:Astronomical numbers.
Next Article:November 1965.

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