The Great Meteor

The New York Times, p. 5, Monday, July 30, 1860
s1Aubeck, Chris: Magonia Exchange, 18 mars 2007
L'article d'origine
L'article d'origine

Call for information at the National Observatory.

The great meteor of Friday evening, July 20, was probably seen far out at sea, by ships between the parallels of 35° and 40° N. All who observed it are requested to communicate the fact to Lieut. MAURY, National Observatory, Washington, stating as nearly as they can the position of the ship, the precise time of night, and describing the path of the meteor, its bearings from the observer, and its probable altitude.

Observations at various points

In connection with the Above, we publish a few of the many communications which have reached us relative to the appearance of the phenomenon :

On a North River Steamboat

Niagara Falls, Thursday, July 26, 1860.

To the Editor of the New-York Times :

As a contribution to knowledge in regard to the meteor of Friday evening , July 20, please accept my account, and let me state that I saw it from the moment of its emergence above the horizon to that of its disapearance in the eastern, and noticed every phase. I was on board the Hudson River steamboat New World, on her passage up from New-York, seated with many others on the upper deck, which had no awning or other cover to interrupt the view. It was about 9 1/2 o'clock, and we were just entering the Highlands, (say lat. 41°18, lon. 73°55'.) when the meteor appeared. Admitting that the boat was heading due north, which, however, I do not know, then the meteor rose from a point in the western horizon a little to the south of west?say 15 or 20 degrees. Coming up vertically, it passed over us a little to the south of the zenith, and descended to the eastern horizon, just abeam of the boat, which would indicate due est if the boat was heading north.

When the meteor first appeared above the creet of the hill on the western shore, it looked like the fireball of a "Roman candle," of the same bluish white color, and great brillancy, but much enlarged, the nucleus appearing about half as large as a hat, and, in fact, the first idea was very general, that some one on the hill was exhibiting a gigantic Roman candle. That idea was, however, soon dispelied by observing its uniform, unretarded rate of motion, and its steady, long-continued movement upward and onward, and it was then evident that its vertical rising was owing to the immense distance from which it came, on a path parallel with the earth's surface, and from its great height?the effect, in fact, or pespective?and so also in regard to its disappearance in the eastern horizon.

When about half-way up to the zenith, it left behind it a train of sparks or fragments of a redder color, like sparks of a rocket, but not numerous, the number, however, increasing as the meteor progressed. When near the zenith, but before reaching it, say within thirty degrees, the nucleus separated into two, not, however, with any appearance of explosiion, but rather as if drawn apart by the superior velocity of he anterior portion. The two parts were of about equal size, and each seemed larger in front, the hinder portion being as it were drawn out to a slender tall, behind which, again, were detached sparks, from which the bright white light of the nucleus had deparied, leaving the red, rocket-like, duller-colored sparks in its stead. As the meteor moved on to the east, the white light of even the nucleus was becoming dimmer, until this light disapeared entirely, and the red light took its place, and then there was a train in the sky, just like that seen after the passage of a rocket.

The distance of the flight towards the east, and the diminished brilliancy, made it doubtful if it would reach the eastern horizon, but it did, going down in a slender thread, or spark of duller light.

The whole time of the passage could not have been less than a minute, because there was ample time during the flight to form, discuss and alter opinions?most people on deck at first believing it to be a piece of fireworks, until the unaltered velocity and long continuance induced a change of opinion.

W. H. S.

At Southampton, I. L.

Southampton, Tuesday, July 21, 1860.

To the Editor of the New-York Times :

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