You can now buy the recently released book, Fall of a Thousand Suns: How Near Misses and Comet Impacts affected the Religious Beliefs of our Ancestors. It is available through iBooks and Amazon.


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 Holmes

Comet Holmes


The Discovery of Comet Holmes (17P/Holmes)

On November 6, 1892 British astronomer, Edwin Holmes, was looking at the Andromeda Galaxy when something flared—becoming much brighter. It would become known as Comet Holmes (17P/Holmes) after its discoverer.


After being spotted in 1892, 1899 and 1906, this comet went unobserved for decades. It was occasionally referred to as “The Lost Comet”, before being found once again in 1964.





Comet Holmes briefly becomes the Largest Comet in the Solar System

Comet Holmes NASA
Comet Holmes on November 1, 2007. Credit: NASA / ESA / A. Dyer

On October 23rd and 24th of 2007, as Comet Holmes was moving away from the Sun, it flared unexpectedly. Why did this outburst occur? Nobody is certain.


There were suggestions that the 2-mile wide (3.2 km) nucleus collided with a meteor, but researchers at the Max Planck Institute published a paper in Astronomy and Astrophysics claiming ice, trapped inside the comet, became steam and exploded through the surface.


Geophysicists Konrad Kossacki and Slawomira Szutowicz, from the Warsaw University and the Polish Academy of Sciences respectively, disagree with the Max Planck Institute's analysis, claiming the comet was likely fueled by carbon monoxide, which exploded as the comet was on its way out of the inner solar system. They've published their results in the scientific journal Icarus.


Regardless of the reason for the flare, less than a month after the initial outburst, Comet Holmes had increased in brightness by a factor of 1,000,000 times.  It was the third brightest object in the constellation Perseus, from Earth’s perspective. This outgassing briefly gave the coma, one of the parts of a comet, a 869,900-mile diameter (1.4 million km).  In other words, by November of 2007, Comet Holmes was the largest object in the entire solar system even larger than our Sun...or Brad Pitt's ego.



Orbital Period and Comet Holmes Next Visit

Four simultaneous points of view of the orbit of Comet Holmes (17P/Holmes) as it orbits through the solar system. Click on icon in lower right corner to enter full screen HD mode.

Credit: Osamu Ajiki. Modified by Ron Baalke (JPL). Adapted by Kevin Curran.

The most recent perihelion of Comet Holmes occurred on March 27, 2014. It was one of the brightest comets in 2014. It won't have an easy act to follow. This apparition of Comet Holmes followed in the immediate wake of what several astronomers felt would be one of the brightest comets in history, Comet ISON. Sadly, Comet ISON did not live up to its billing.


Comet Holmes orbits the Sun once every 6.88 years – never straying beyond Jupiter. It was captured centuries or millennia ago in the inner solar system by Jupiter, preventing it from returning to the Kuiper Belt. Like hundreds of other comets, including Comet Encke, It is classified as a Jupiter-Family comet.