The Greatest Comets from 1800 to Present Times
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Even a quick glance through the lists of great comets shows it to be top heavy! The last couple of centuries seem to have had more than their share of very bright ones. (Please do not read this as a complaint!).
In part, this is probably because the opening up and increased settlement of the southern hemisphere has allowed those comets that have saved up their best performance for southern climes to be observed through their maximum brightness. Also, comets were found that remained exclusively southern objects, and probably would have slipped by unnoticed in earlier centuries.
Moreover, this period also saw the return of a number of Kreutz sungrazing comets. These, as we shall see in Chapter 6, progressively fragment, implying that the group is becoming more and more populated by smaller objects. Nevertheless, even though the recent sungrazers are smaller than their earlier parents, many are still capable of becoming great comets. Because the brightness of a comet depends more on the...