Concerning Comets

The Literary Digest

The latest statistics show that from 1801 to 1892 more than two hundred and thirty periodic comets have been observed with precision. Of these, however, there are only fifteen whose return has been actually observed. If we take those whose aphelia are approximately known, we find that these points are grouped about the more distant planets. Thus each of these comets obeys two masters; the sun, of course, is the greater, and all return to him sooner or later. But, in addition, each of those comets whose orbits have been brought within the approximate limits of the solar system returns at the other end of its orbit to a point in the neighborhood of the planet whose influence coaxed it into this more restricted path. Jupiter is found to have the largest collection of cometic captives or slaves, numbering twenty-three, while Saturn and Uranus each have two, and Neptune five. But even beyond this there are four groups, of which the most distant contains seven members and has its aphelion at least five times further from the sun than the planet Neptune. The existence of an ultra-Neptunian planet at the distance of about 8,000 million miles seems to Mr. Forbes, of the Edinburgh Royal Society, as certain. The mass of this planet, he thinks, must be much greater than that of Jupiter.

The Literary Digest.

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An Impression Received from the Message
August 7, 1902

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