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This website only lists information on modern-day comets and meteor showers. The book, however, thoroughly investigates how specific ancient impacts and near misses changed religious beliefs around the world.

Comet Brorsen

Comet brorsen


Discovery of Comet Brorsen (5P/Brorsen)

On February 25, 1846 a comet was observed by Theodor Johan Christian Ambders Brorsen near Eta Piscium. On March 27, 1846 it made its closest approach to Earth at a distance of 0.52 AU. By the end of months of observations, it was determined that like Comet Encke (2P/Encke), Comet Biela (3P/Biela) and Comet Faye (4P/Faye), Comet Brorsen (5P/Brorsen) was a Jupiter-family comet. At the time, its orbital period was determined to be 5.5 years, close to the modern-day calculations of 5.461 years. Comet Brorsen was only the second comet in history to have its orbit determined without a single observation during a previous orbit. The first was Comet Faye (4P/Faye).


Comet 5P/Brorsen

Drawing of 5D/Brorsen on May 14, 1868, by Karl Bruhns. Published in World of Comets (1877)

Theodor Brorsen made worldwide news with his discovery. In the land before television and the internet, newspapers carried the story around the world. In fading black ink, readers learned that Brorsen attained a law degree in Germany, before pursuing his life's passion astronomy. Eventually, Brorsen took a position as a astronomer at the Kiel observatory. Brorsen became an unkempt recluse in the last quarter of his 75 years on this planet. Never married, he grew his hair long, let his clothes become ragged and even cut holes in his shoes where his feet were uncomfortable. He bathed in lake, even during the winter when he created holes in the ice.


Two of the five comets discovered by Brorsen bear his name. However, only two (1846 III, and 1847 V) had their periodic orbit determined giving the comet its informal name. Those two were 5D/Brorsen (1846 III / Comet Brorsen) and 23P/Brorsen-Metcalf (1847 V), a comet spotted first by Brorsen on July 20, 1847 then nearly 70 years later on August 21, 1919 was Reverend Joel Hastings Metcalf. Its orbit was determined at the time, and linked to the comet observed by Brorsen in July of 1847. Brorsen may have discovered a sixth comet on March 16, 1854. The sighting could not be confirmed by other astronomers at the time.



Next Return of Comet Brorsen (Next Perihelion)

Close approaches to Jupiter may have helped put the comet in the "lost" category. It hasn't been seen since 1879, when it was observed for four consecutive months.


Modern calculations have determined that 5P/Brorsen was only able to be discovered after its orbit was severely perturbed in May of 1842, when it passed 0.0668 AU from the largest planet in our solar system.