Great Comet of 1680

C/1680 V1, also called the Great Comet of 1680, Kirch's Comet, and Newton's Comet, was the first comet discovered by telescope. It was discovered by Gottfried Kirch and was one of the brightest comets of the seventeenth century.

C/1680 V1
The Great Comet of 1680 over Rotterdam as painted by Lieve Verschuier
Discovered byGottfried Kirch
Discovery date14 November 1680
Great Comet of 1680, 1680 V1
Orbital characteristics A
Observation arc125 days
Aphelion889 au
Perihelion0.00622 au[1][2]
Semi-major axis444 au
Orbital period~10,400 yr[3]
Last perihelion1680-12-18[1][2]
Next perihelionunknown


The 1680 comet seen from Rotterdam on December 29th, 1680 as simulated by Stellarium

The comet was discovered by Gottfried Kirch, a German astronomer, on 14 November 1680 (New Style), in Coburg, and it became one of the brightest comets of the seventeenth century – reputedly visible even in daytime – and was noted for its spectacularly long tail.[4] Passing 0.42 au from Earth on 30 November 1680,[5] it sped around an extremely close perihelion of 0.0062 au (930,000 km; 580,000 mi) on 18 December 1680, reaching its peak brightness on 29 December as it swung outward.[2][5] It was last observed on 19 March 1681.[1] As of February 2019 the comet is about 257 au (38 billion km) from the Sun.[6]

Commemorative medal depicting the comet, Hamburg, 1681

While the Kirch Comet of 1680–1681 was discovered by—and subsequently named for—Gottfried Kirch, credit must also be given to Eusebio Kino, the Spanish Jesuit priest who charted the comet’s course. During his delayed departure for Mexico, Kino began his observations of the comet in Cádiz in late 1680. Upon his arrival in Mexico City, he published his Exposisión [sic] astronómica de el cometa (Mexico City, 1681) in which he presented his findings. Kino’s Exposisión astronómica is among the earliest scientific treatises published by a European in the New World.[7]

The orbit of the comet of 1680, fit to a parabola, as shown in Isaac Newton's Principia

Although it was undeniably a sungrazing comet, it was probably not part of the Kreutz family.[8] Isaac Newton used the comet to test and verify Kepler's laws.[9] John Flamsteed was the first to propose that the two bright comets of 1680–1681 were the same comet, one travelling inbound to the Sun and the other outbound, and Newton originally disputed this. Newton later changed his mind, and then, with Edmond Halley's help, purloined some of Flamsteed's data to indeed verify this was the case without giving Flamsteed credit.[9]

See also


  1. "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: C/1680 V1" (1681-03-19 last obs (Encke : 125-day data arc)). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Retrieved 26 July 2011.
  2. "JPL DASTCOM Comet Orbital Elements". Archived from the original on 6 September 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2010. Num Name ... q ... Tp ... C/1680 V1 (1680 V1) ... 0.00622200 ... 16801218.48760
  3. Horizons output. "Barycentric Osculating Orbital Elements for Comet C/1680 V1". Retrieved 26 July 2011. (Solution using the Solar System Barycenter and barycentric coordinates. Select Ephemeris Type:Elements and Center:@0)
  4. Seargent, David A. J. (16 December 2008). The Greatest Comets in History: Broom Stars and Celestial Scimitars. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 112–113. ISBN 9780387095134.
  5. Donald Yeomans. "Great Comets in History". Jet Propulsion Laboratory/California Institute of Technology (Solar System Dynamics). Retrieved 1 August 2007.
  6. NASA JPL HORIZONS ephemeris more accurate position, no plot. Observer Location: @sun
  7. Bolton, H. E. (1919). Kino's Historical Memoir of the Pimería Alta. Cleveland, OH (USA): Arthur H. Clark. OCLC 1730711. Reprint 1948.
  8. Tony Hoffman. "A SOHO and Sungrazing Comet FAQ". Archived from the original on 4 July 2013. Retrieved 6 February 2006.
  9. Jardine, Lisa (15 March 2013). "A Point of View: Crowd-sourcing comets". Magazine. BBC News. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
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