From the Enquirer

The following are the observations which I have made on the apparent situation of the Comet now visible.  The distances between it and the fixed Stars were ascertained by a good Hadley’s Octant, and the right ascensions, &c. were obtained from a Celestial Globe, not having at present leisure to make the necessary calculations in Spherical Trigonometry for that purpose.

Saturday, 7th, September, half past seven at night. 
Distances, in  deg.       &min.

Polar Star:  50   15
Ursa Major, Alpha:  21  33
Ursa Major, Gamma:   16   28
Right Ascension: 161 30
Declination N.: 41
Longitude 4 Signs: 23
Latitude:  30     30
Distance from the Sun:  34       15

Wednesday, 11th September half past seven at night.
Distances, in  deg.       &min.

Polar Star:  48   50
Ursa Major, Alpha:  20   10
Ursa Major, Beta: 14    44
Ursa Major, Gamma:   15   23
Ursa Major, Eta:  27   23
Arcturus:   43   45
Right Ascension: 165
Declination N.: 42   45
Longitude 4 Signs: 28
Latitude:  34
Distance from the Sun:  37       45

Friday, 13th September half past seven at night.                              
Distances, in  deg. &min.

Polar Star:   48  5
Ursa Major, Alpha:  19  35
Ursa Major, Beta:  14     4
Ursa Major, Gamma:  12    15
Right Ascension:  168    30
Declination:  43    45
Longitude 5 Signs:
Latitude:   35
Distance from the Sun:  39   30
Saturday, 14th September half past seven at night.                           
Distances, in  deg.       &min.

Polar Star:  47    50
Ursa Major, Alpha:   19    12
Ursa Major, Beta:  14     3
Ursa Major, Gamma:  11    42
Ursa Major, Eta:  27    23
Arcturus:  42      26
Right Ascension:  169
Declination N:  44
Longitude 5 Signs and minutes:  45
Latitude: 35     45
Distance from the Sun:  40        30

Sunday, 15th September four in the morning.                       
Distances, in  deg. &min.

Ursa Major, Alpha:  10         10
Ursa Major, Beta:   14    1
Ursa Major, Gamma:  10    35
Alpha of Orion:  82        15
Sirius Canis Major:  88       55
Procyon Canis Minor:  63    55

With respect to the changes which have taken place in the Comet, since first observed, its brightness, as likewise its tail, have considerably increased.      
Whether this comet be one of those which have a periodical return is extremely uncertain – I do not find that it corresponds exactly with any on record.  From its situation and appearance several conclusions may, however, be drawn.
1st.  That it ascending Node is in Leo and its descending Node in Sagitarius.
2d.  That the Atmosphere of the Comet is either extremely dense, or that the Comet is removed at a much greater distance than Jupiter from the sun; for as the Comet is enlightened by the sun in like manner as the Planets, it would be equally bright as Jupiter were it at the same distance and not obscured by a dense Atmosphere.  On account of the great apparent magnitude of its body it is, however, more probable that its distance from the earth is much less than that of Jupiter, and that a dense atmosphere, and not its distance, causes its obscurity.—Its effect upon the Globe will principally depend upon its distance from the earth when passing the descending node.
Dr. Halley in speaking of the Comet of 1680 says, “had the earth then been in the part of her orbit nearest to that node, their mutual gravitation must have caused a change in the plane of the orbit of the earth, and the length of our year, and that if so large body with so rapid a motion as that of this comet were to strike against the earth, a thing by no means impossible, the shock might reduce this beautiful frame to its original chaos.”
Mr. Whiston attributes the universal deluge of the near approach of a comet.  His opinion was “that the earth passing through the atmosphere of the comet attracted there from great part of the water of the flood; that the nearness of the comet raised a great tide in the subterraneous waters, so that the outer crust of the earth was changed from a spherical to an oval figure.”  Thus he accounts for trees and bones of animals being found at very great depths in the earth.
As the most remarkable comets have been generally attended with extraordinary tides and tempests, it were to be wished that those who have an opportunity would be particularly careful in noticing such natural phenomena as may take place during the appearance of this comet.  Such an opportunity may not again present itself for many years.
John Wood
Richmond 15th September

Steamboat Adventure
Made possible by the Rivers Institute and the
History Department of Hanover College.


How to cite this article:  "From the Enquirer," Western Spy (Cincinnati, Ohio) 12 Oct.1811, p. 4, available at