1472: A Very Particular and Curious Comet

The Comet of 1472 is a much maligned milestone in the annals of observational science simply because the master of St. Peter’s College [Cambridge] chronicled the comet’s precession as it decayed, diminished and [finally] disappeared whilst orbiting the Earth.

On a very particular and curious Account of the Comet of 1472, from a contemporary MS Chronicle in Peterhouse Library

By J. O. Halliwell, Esq., F.S.A., of Jesus College, Cambridge.

To the Editors of the Philosophical Magazine and Journal.


The following minute description of the comet of 1472 is taken from an autograph chronicle of English affairs by John Warkworth, master of St. Peter’s College, Cambridge, still preserved in the library of that institution.

I am preparing the whole for publication for the Camden Society.

” And in same xi yere of the kynge, in the begynnynge of Januarii, there apperyd the moste mervelous blasynge sterre that hade bene seyn.

It aroose in the Southe-Este at ij of the cloke at mydnyght, and so contynued a xij nyghtes, and it arose ester and ester till it aroose full este and rather.

And so when it roose playn Est, it rose at x of cloke in the nyght, and kept his cours flaraynge Westward overe Englond ; and it hade a white flaume of fyre fervently brennynge, and it flamed endlonges fro the Est to the Weste, and noght vpright; and a grete hole theirin, whereof the flawme cam oute ot.

And after a vj or vjj dayes it aroose North-Est, and so bakkere and bakkere, and so enduryd a xiijj nyghtes full lytell chaungynge, goynge from the North- Este to the Weste ; and sometyme it wuld seme a quenched oute, and sodanly it brent fervently ageyn.

And then it was at one tynie playne northe, and then it compassed rounde aboute the lode sterre, for in the evynynge the blase went ageyns the Southe.

And in the mornynge playne northe, and then afterward West, and so more West flamyng vpryght, and so the sterre contynued iiij wekys tylle the xx day of ffeveryere ; and when it appered West in the fyrmament, then it lasted alle the nyght, somewhat discendyng with a grettere smoke on the heyre ; and som men seyd that the blassynges of the seide sterre was of a myle lengh ; and a xjj dayes afore the vanyschynge therof, it appereryd in the evenyng, and was down anon within two oures, and evyr of a colour pale stedfast, and it kept his course rysynge west in the northe, and so every nyght it apperid lasse and lasse tyll it was as lytell as a hesyll styke, and so at the laste it vanesched away the xx day of ffebruarii.

And some men saide that this sterre was seen ii or iij oures afore the sunne rysynge in Decembre iijj days before Chrystynmasse in the Southwest, so by that reasoune it compassed rounde abowte alle the erthe alleway chaungyng his cours as is afore rehersid.”

The observations of Johannes Regiomontanus upon the same comet are recorded in the Nuremberg Chronicle.

Warkworth’s description was lately commuicated to the Society of Antiquaries by my friend Mr. Bruce, and my object in sending it to you was to afford an opportunity for those of your readers to peruse it who are not likely to meet with it through any other source.

Your obedient servant,

J. O. Halliwell.

London and Edinburgh Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science
Vol 14 – 1839

Apparently, these observations trigger apoplexy amongst Academics.

Nonetheless, the Comet of 1472 was observed around the world.

The comet of 1472 was visible from Christmas Day 1471 to 1 March 1472 (Julian Calendar), for a total of 59 days.

The comet was observed by Regiomontanus and Bernhard Walther from Nuremberg.

An Italian physician named Angelo Cato de Supino also left a description of the comet, claiming it was as bright as the full moon, its tail extending over more than 30 degrees.[citation needed]

The comet (or “broom star”) was also observed in Chinese astronomy, where it is noted that it was visible even at midday.


And at some point Regiomontanus calculated the Comet of 1472 was 8,200 German miles [about 61,500 kilometres] above the Earth’s surface.

Johannes Müller von Königsberg (1436-1476), better known as Regiomontanus, was a mathematician and astronomer of the German Renaissance, active in Vienna, Buda and Nuremberg.

His contributions were instrumental in the development of Copernican heliocentrism in the decades following his death.

Regiomontanus and Bernhard Walther observed the comet of 1472.


In a treatise named On the Comet, which is attributed to Regiomontanus, there appeared detailed information about the motion, direction of the tail, distance, size and length of the comet 1472.

The third part of the On the Comet deals with the distance of the comet 1472, which is given as nine times of the earth’s radius or 8,200 German miles from the surface of the earth.

The size of the comet’s head is given as 26 miles and the size of the coma as 81 miles.

A History of Physical Theories of Comets, From Aristotle to Whipple
Tofigh Heidarzadeh – 2008

See: https://www.amazon.com/dp/140208322X/

The German mile (Meile) was 24,000 German feet.
The standardised Austrian mile used in southern Germany and the Austrian Empire was 7.586 km; the Prussian mile used in northern Germany was 7.5325 km

These were sometimes treated as equivalent to 7.5 km.


Some critics [very] unconvincingly assert Regiomontanus [and his “crude instruments”] couldn’t differentiate between an angle of “six degrees” and “3 arc seconds”.

The measured parallax of the comet was six degrees, which based on modern calculations should be about 3 arc seconds.

In other words, the measured value was 7,200 times greater than the true value.

While the observational methods and the required mathematics for interpretation of the data were in hand, the crude instruments did not yield appropriate results.

A History of Physical Theories of Comets, From Aristotle to Whipple
Tofigh Heidarzadeh – 2008

Some critics blithely claim “of course” Regiomontanus failed “by orders of magnitude” without even realising his results are quoted in German miles.

Regiomontanus tried to estimate its distance from Earth, using the parallax.

According to Seargeant (2009):

In agreement with the prevailing Aristotelian theory on comets as atmospheric phenomena, he estimated its distance to be at least 8,200 miles (13,120 km) and, from this, estimated the central condensation as 26, and the entire coma as 81 miles (41.6 and 129.6 km respectively) in diameter.

These values, of course, fail by orders of magnitude, but he is to be commended for this attempt at determining the physical dimensions of the comet.

David A. Seargeant. The Greatest Comets in History, 2009, p. 104


None of these critics address the chronicled observations of John Warkworth that indicate a lump of rock [possibly up to 195 kilometre in size] disintegrated as it’s Earth orbit slowly decayed.

At first glance, Korean meteor observations provide support for the disintegration of the Comet of 1472 but this cannot be positively confirmed from the low resolution graphic.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/the-abcd-theory/

But it’s very possible the sediments of Elk Lake [Minnesota] provide proof positive that the Comet of 1472 disintegrated as it spiralled down towards the Earth’s surface.

These undetected multiple layers in Elk Lake appear to represent about 50% of the varves and this may be linked to periods of unseasonal weather caused by an intruding air mass.

The likelihood that 50% of the varves are undetected multiple layers is reinforced by:

1) The “40-50 year” oscillation being twice the Hale Solar Cycle period.

2) The varve chronology doesn’t show the Heinsohn and Arabian horizons.

3) The varve chronology shrunk by 50% echoes the Old Japanese Cedar chronology.

See: https://malagabay.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/elk-lake-varves/

The suggested “50%” recalibration of the Elk Lake Varve Chronology relocates the very remarkable [and unexplained] 33.62 mm outlier layer to 1491.5 AD i.e. within 20 years of 1472.

Adjusting the calibration so that a 52.56% reduction is applied relocates this very remarkable [and unexplained] outlier layer to 1472.07 AD.

A similar 54.7% recalibration of the Elk Lake Carbon Chronology relocates the remarkable [and unexplained] Total Carbon outlier layer to 1472.24 AD.

If the above outlier events were caused by the disintegration debris of the Comet of 1472 then this would help explain the very remarkable [and equally unexplained] outlier event where the colour of the Elk Lake sediments suddenly darken.

Overall, a coherent case can be made that debris from the Comet of 1472 arrived [probably from the South West] during 1472 CE and created the outlier layer in Elk Lake, Minnesota.

But, as always, Correlation Does Not Prove Causation.

UPDATE 4 Sept 2017
Additional references to the Comet of 1472.

Chinese Astronomical Records on Comets and ‘Guest Stars’
ln the Official Historties of Ming and Ch’ing and other Supplementary Sources
Ho Peng-Yoke and Ang Tian-Se – University of Malaya

Click to access OE-17-5.pdf

The Adoration of the Kings
In a period of 30 years Sandro Botticelli (1445 – May 1510) created five adorations of the kings.

The first adoration was painted before 1470 and probably begun by his teacher Filippo Lippi (1406 – 1469 ).

However, the focus is beginning to shift.

The adoration of the child is only the center as a matter of form.

The observation of exceptional phenomena of the sky, specifically of the comets is established as the real theme.

In the second Adoration (Figure 1) can be recognized a riot: in the group below we come across a man, who explains to his friend the phenomenon with a raised arm.

On the left and right side horses are shying.

The musicians are blowing heavily into their instruments, the shalms, the forerunners of the oboe.

A man with a look of despair is touching his head.

However, many other people remain unimpressed.

The actions and reactions of man and animal are dedicated to the comet, here the great comet of 1471.

In the tondo the comet is represented by the peacock with its marvelous tail.

It was first seen on 8 January 1472 in the constellation of Libra.

The distribution of light and shadow in the upper round arch clearly shows that the Sun illuminates the scenery from the left side.

It’s recognizable that the comet’s head is pointing to the sun.

Now, the central body of our planetary system was found: it is the Sun.

The Astronomical Meaning of Botticelli’s Paintings – Frank Keim

Gallery | This entry was posted in Astrophysics, Catastrophism, Comets, Geology, History, Parallax, Uniformitarianism, Varves. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to 1472: A Very Particular and Curious Comet

  1. Thx1138 says:

    Correlation Does Not Prove Causation.

    But Common Sense can indicate causation.

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