Monday, November 21, 2011

1849: Phenomenon

Bangor Daily Whig And Courier (Bangor, Maine) Thursday, February 1st 1849.


Accounts have been published in various parts of the country of a
phenomenon in the heavens, which is accurately described in the
communication we give below from Stonington, Connecticut. The
appearance of the strange planet. Aerolite, or whatever it may be, is
not confined to any particular hour, but it has been seen as late as
12 o'clock at night, as we were yesterday informed, by persons in the
vicinity of the city. Some evenings since, while in company with
several ladies and gentlemen, we observed it about eight o'clock, on
the very edge of the South-eastern horizon, and its appearance then
was precisely what our correspondent describes it, as it seemed to
him, excepting that to our view, it disappeared twice, re-appearing at
intervals of thirty seconds or thereabouts. We supposed it was the
evening star, and that some peculiarity of the atmosphere caused the
reflection of the rays and the consequent changes. But its appearance
late at night makes it somewhat singular.

The editor of the Athens (Geo.) Banner saw it at 11 o'clock, PM, and
stopped his press to say so.

Our correspondent's use of 'feet' to measure distances of the sky, is
decidedly worthy of mention. It conveys an idea to every mind which
degrees and seconds never could. He says: --

'Last evening, about half-past 8 o'clock, as I was returning from the
depot, on passing by the head of one of the wharves, I noticed in the
Western heavens what I supposed to be a planet. It was about the size
of the planet Venus, and appeared at an angle of about 15° above the
horizon. I did not consider whether there was any planet in that part
of the heavens at that time but as I was passing down the street I
noticed that it was apparently twinkling like a known star. I stopped,
and the apparent planet was rapidly enlarging – it increased to three
or four times its original size, and then changed color, from yellow
to a bright red. It then gradually decreased like a revolving light in
the light-house. It decreased to the size of a star of the 4th or 5th
magnitude, and then again increased.

I watched it thus for about five minutes, and it was continually
changing. The changes were not all regular. Sometimes it would change
instantly from its smallest size to a brilliant light, which was
sometimes yellow and again red; it would then dart out rays of light
in all directions, dazzling my eyes by its brilliancy.

'I thought that I might be laboring under an optical delusion, but
after waiting about five minutes, Mr. ------ came along, and I asked
him to notice it. He stopped, and was equally surprised with myself.
While we both were looking at it, it moved slowly toward the South,
then returned to the North, and then like a pendulum, swung back to
the centre. The distance it moved North and South was apparently
several feet; that is, it moved over 'several feet of sky.' I watched
it for about fifteen minutes, when another gentleman came along. He
stopped and he, too, was astonished; but while we looked, it decreased
as it had before, and then suddenly disappeared.

I saw it immediately over Wamph[…]k point or rather about one-third
of the distance up the point. It could have been nothing connected
with the land for several reasons. 1st. It was bright and light, and
we could distinctly see objects on the point, and could have seen
anything that could have caused the light. 2d. The point is distant
about half a mile from where I stood, and had it been a light moved by
hand, it must have moved at least a quarter of a mile back and forth
in the space of ten seconds; for I saw it move five or six feet in the
air, and that would have been a goodly distance when brought close up.
3d. When it moved, it swung as does a pendulum, which proved that it
was moved (if attached to anything) by something above it and not
below. 4th. It was too high in the sky to have been connected with the
earth. Ergo, it was an appearance in the heavens and nothing else.
Wamphassack is rather high land, and beyond it is the beach; low and
sandy. – N. Y. J[…] Comm.

Finder's credit: Chris Aubeck

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