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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 Finlay

Comet Finlay



The Discovery of Comet Finlay (15P / Finlay)

On September 26, 1886, William Henry Finlay of the Royal Observatory in South Africa observed an unusual object in the night sky. Observations the next day allowed him to determine that the object was moving; it was a comet. The comet, which would later become known as 15P/Finlay, was observed by astronomers around the world until April 12, 1887.


Early calculations attempted to link this comet to another observed by de Vico in 1844 (Lewis Boss, 1886). Within a few months, it was determined that no such connection existed between Finlay and de Vico's comet (Lewis Boss, 1887). They were not the same comet. The de Vico comet would later become known as 54P/de Vico-Swift-NEAT.


Comet Finlay was recovered in 1893 by Finlay as predicted (L. Schulhof).







How Long does Comet Finlay take to orbit the Sun?

Comet Finlay is classified as a Jupiter Family Comet. It takes 6.50 years to orbit the Sun (JPL, 2014).


Due to occasional brushes with planets, the orbit and perihelion distance of Comet Finlay has been, and will continue to be, affected. For example, in June of 1910, Comet Finlay passed 0.45 AU from Jupiter which increased its then-orbital period from 6.54 to 6.69 years.


On October 27, 2060 Comet Finlay will pass 0.048 AU from Earth (JPL, 2014). That's the equivalent of 4,500,000 miles or 7,200,000 kilometers. For reference, the average distance between Earth and the Moon is 0.002 AU.




Comet Finlay’s Next Perihelion

The next perihelion of Comet Finlay will occur on December 27, 2014.


As a faint comet, for several apparitions Comet Finlay has gone unobserved. It wasn't observed from 1926 to 1952, but has been observed every apparition since 1953. The previous perihelion, dating back to the discovery of Comet Finlay, are (Yoshida, 2014):


  • 15P/1886 S1 (November 22, 1866)
  • 15P/1893 K1 (July 12, 1893)
  • Unobserved (February 17, 1900)
  • 15P (September 8, 1906)
  • Unobserved (February 7, 1913)
  • 15P (October 15, 1919)
  • 15P (August 7, 1926)
  • Unobserved (June 16, 1933)
  • Unobserved (April 25, 1940)
  • Unobserved (February 27, 1947)
  • 15P (December 25, 1953)
  • 15P (September 1, 1960)
  • 15P (July 28, 1967)
  • 15P (July 3, 1974)
  • 15P (June 19, 1981)
  • 15P (June 6, 1988)
  • 15P (May 5, 1995)
  • 15P (February 7, 2002)
  • 15P (June 22, 2008)
  • 15P (December 26, 2014)


orbit of comet finlay



The orbital path of Comet Finlay (15P / Finlay)

Credit: JPL composited by Kevin Curran




Size of Comet Finlay (15P / Finlay)

The size of Comet Finlay is unknown.