Top 7 Missing Comets of All Time

Top 7 Missing Comets of All Time

Brorsen's Comet - Missing Comets

The mystery of missing comets has always been a hard nut to crack for the astronomers. Despite their massive size and distinctive tails, some comets are known to simply disappear in open space. Several different theories have been proposed but scientists haven’t been able to figure out a definitive answer for this puzzle. Below is a list of some of the most amazing missing comets that were once clearly visible to humanity.

Caesar’s Comet

Caesar's Comet - Missing Comets

Regarded as the brightest comet ever, it was observed in July 44 BC, 4 months after the death of a famous Roman general, Julius Caesar. It appeared when the Romans were holding the Ludi Victoriae Caesaris in honor of Caesar and that’s what gave this comet its name. It remained visible for 7 days and was so bright that people were able to see it clearly during the day. Masses of the general public considered the comet to be Caesar’s soul as he himself claimed to be a god. It was never seen again and many scientists believe that it was a non-periodic comet (a comet that doesn’t orbit the Sun).

Great Comet of 1264

Great Comet of 1264 - Missing Comets

This comet was first observed between July and October of 1264. The timing of its appearance is very important because it emerged to the scene when comets were considered ‘bad omens’. This superstition was further strengthened by the death of Pope Urban IV on 3rd October 1264, the last day the comet was seen. An interesting thing about the Great Comet of 1264 is that Guy Pingre, an Astronomer, claimed that this bright comet reappeared again in 1556. He presented this theory in 1778 and said that the comet will reappear again in 1848 (after 292 years). However, the comet didn’t return according to his calculations.

Comet Lexell

Comet Lexell - Missing Comets

This comet flew at a distance of 2.2 million kilometers from the Earth which means it came the closest to our planet among all the known comets. Charles Messier made the discovery in 1770 and Anders Lexell calculated its orbit. Based on these calculations, it was expected that the comet will return in 1776 but it never did show up. According to Urbain Le Verrier, its orbit was altered by Jupiter and it is possible that it may return towards Earth in the future.

Biela’s Comet

Biela's Comet - Missing Comets

Jacques Leibax Montaigne discovered this comet, for this first time, in March 1772. It was later observed again in 1805 and 1826 by Jean-Louis Pons and Wilhelm von Biela, respectively. While Pons failed to acknowledge the previous observation, Biela successfully determined that it had the same orbit as the comets discovered by Pons and Montaigne. Before making it to the list of missing comets, the last occurrence of this comet was recorded in 1852.

Brorsen’s Comet

Brorsen's Comet - Missing Comets

Theodor Brorsen discovered this amazing comet on 26th February 1846. It remained visible until the 22nd of April before traveling too far to be observed. It was again seen in March 1857 by Karl Bruhns who initially thought it to be a new comet. However, he later realized that it was a missing comet that he has rediscovered. The returning period of this comet was set at around 5.5 years but it did show a lot of variations because of its orbit, which was pretty close to Jupiter. The last sighting of this comet was reported in 1879 after which it acquired the status of one of the famous missing comets.

Comet Boethin

Comet Boethin - Missing Comets

One of the most recent missing comets, Comet Boethin, was originally discovered in January 1975 by Reverend Leo Boethin. A lot of astronomers observed this comet until the 1st of March and calculated its orbit to determine that it will return after 11 years in January 1986. It did show up for the second time in 1986 but went missing after that as it was not observed in 1997. It was ultimately labeled as a missing comet in 2008 when it didn’t appear again.


83D/Russell - Missing Comets

The most recent entrant among all the missing comets was observed by Kenneth S. Russell on 16th June 1979. According to initial calculations, its returning period was set at 7.43 years. However, it was later modified by Daniel Green who calculated it to be 6.13 years. His calculations proved right as the comet reappeared in April 1985. It did remain visible until the 17th of June and that was the last time it was seen. An orbit too close to Jupiter was altered significantly by the gravitational force of the planet. Consequently, the comet didn’t return in 1991, 1998, and 2006.    

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