The Origins of Comets



Do we live in astronomically disappointing times? Are the skies duller than they've been in the past-comets less spectacular, meteors less frequent, and the zodiacal lights dimmer? Certainly as an amateur astronomer I have been haunted by that impression. When the only comets in recent times have been West, Kohoutek, and Halley—hardly worth writing home about—one could certainly wonder at the interest that is apparent in treatments of these subjects in historical texts. Why were the ancients so fascinated, fearful, and focused on these faint celestial fuzzballs that can only be seen when carefully pointed out?