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3D/Biela - Comet Biela
Discovered by
Wilhelm von Biela
Discovery date
February 27, 1826
Semi-major axis
3.5253
Eccentricity
0.7559
Orbital period
6.619
Inclination
12.550°
Epoch
September 29, 1852
TJupiter
2.531
Aphelion
6.190
Perihelion
0.8606
Last Perihelion(s)
September 24, 1852
Next Perihelion
Disintegrated in 1852

 

Meteoric impacts

 

Biela's Comet was the subject of several panics over close approaches to Earth. An 1877 newspaper illustration from Chile, captioned "inevitable impact of the Earth with Comet Biela"
Biela's Comet was the subject of several panics over close approaches to Earth. An 1877 newspaper illustration from Chile, captioned "inevitable impact of the Earth with Comet Biela"

Biela has sometimes been proposed as the source of meteoric impacts on Earth.

A fringe theory links together several major fires that occurred simultaneously in America, including the Great Chicago Fire and the Peshtigo Fire, claiming that they were caused by fragments of Biela's Comet striking the Earth. The theory was first proposed by Ignatius L. Donnelly in 1883, and was revived in a 1985 book and further explored in an unpublished 2004 scientific paper. However, experts dispute such a scenario - meteorites in fact are cold to the touch when they reach the Earth's surface, and there are no credible reports of any fire anywhere having been started by a meteorite. Given the low tensile strength of such bodies, if a fragment of an icy comet were to strike the Earth, the most likely outcome would be for it to disintegrate in the upper atmosphere, leading to an air burst explosion analogous to that of the Tunguska event.

On November 27, 1885, an iron meteorite fell in northern Mexico, at the same time as a 15,000 per hour outburst of the Andromedid meteor shower. The Mazapil meteorite has sometimes been attributed to the comet, but this idea has been out of favor since the 1950s as the processes of differentiation required to produce an iron body are not believed to occur in comets.

Importance in the history of the concept of luminiferous ether

Biela's Comet (and Comet Encke) had a role in the now-discredited concept of luminiferous aether: its orbit was found to be shrinking in size, which was ascribed to the drag of an ether through which it orbited.

Last modified
12/12/2016 - 02:46