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Text #9027

Yeomans. Comets
[p. 362]

613 BC; Autumn: China. A broom star comet entered the constellation of the Great Bear. This is probably the first comet for which a verifiable record exists. Ho (5).

Text #30

Kronk. Cometography: A Catalog of Comets. Series: Cometography. Vol. 1
[pp. 1--2]

-612 This was the first comet reported in more than one Chinese historical text. Ho Peng Yoke (1962) gives seven sources, the oldest being the Ch’un Ch’iu (-480). The texts said a “broom star” entered Pei-Tou [the Big Dipper] sometime during the month of -612 August 4 to September 2. The Ch’un Ch’iu says, “Then as a broom sweeps away what is old to give place to something new, a comet is supposed to presage changes.” The year is based on modern dating of the Chinese calendar. A few older sources give different dates. In 1865, James Legge said the comet was seen in -611, but J. Williams (1871) and Wen Shion Tsu (1934) said it was seen in -610.

Various astronomers have suggested this comet was an earlier appearance of some more contemporary comet. J. Riem (1896) suggested the year and location were evidence that this comet might have been a previous apparition of comet C/1881 K1. Several astronomers, beginning with Johann Holetschek (1897), have suggested this might be a previous appearance of 1P/Halley. This latter link is an unlikely one, as modern investigations into the motion of this comet, indicate the perihelion date was probably within the period -619 to -615.

Full moon: August 19

Text #9028

Editorial comment by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Noticing in Kronk’s text that several astronomers have suggested that this may have been Halley’s Comet and that “the year is based on modern dating of the Chinese calendar”, it’s not impossible that this calendrical reconciliation is off by a few years and this could have been Halley’s. Kronk has 612 BC, Yeoman’s has 613 BC.

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