Keywords |
  • Space,
  • astronomy

Kohoutek comet

On 7 march 1973, the Czech astronomer Lubos Kohoutek discovered a comet officially named C/1973 E1. Astronomers quickly calculated that it was a long period comet (over 100,000 years) probably from the Oort cloud, an immense reservoir of comets located 50,000 astronomical units (nearly one light-year) away.

The hyperbolic trajectory of the hirsute body indicated that this was the first time it had come into the solar system, meaning that there would be a large amount of outgassing giving a spectacular display at the perihelion on 28 December. Kohoutek was announced by the media as "the comet of the century".

Unfortunately, the comet was more discrete than expected: at a magnitude of 4 it was barely visible to the naked eye when it passed the perihelion and the media, on the back of the political news at the time, called it the "Watergate comet"!

Nevertheless, in the eyes of astronomers it remains a beautiful voyager with a tail of 25 apparent degrees; but stung by their over-optimistic predictions, scientists became be very cautious over their future predictions. Three years later, the splendid West's comet passed largely unnoticed.

Kohoutek comet. Credit NASA Kohoutek comet. Credit NASA

Kohoutek comet - 1 Photo


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