Shootng Star Spectacle May Light Boston Skies
"I was suddenly awakened by the most distressing cries that ever fell on my ears. Shrieks of horror and cries for mercy I could hear from most of the Negroes of the three plantations, amounting in all to about 600 or 800. I arose, and, taking my sword, stood at the door.
"Upwards of a hundred lay prostrate on the ground--some speechless and some with the bitterest cries, but with their hands raised, imploring God to save the world and them. The scene was truly awful for never did rain fall much thicker than the meteors fell that night."
The date was November 13, 1833, and a fragment of a comet had just struck the earth.
Every 33 years or so there is a chance of this happening again, when the remnants of an old comet once more pass near the earth. Calculations show that this will happen tonight.
The comet in question has apparently been disintegrating for centuries, strewing its orbit with solid particles. Every year, in mid-November, the earth passes through this orbit, and some of these enter our atmosphere and burn up, producing a yearly shower of shooting stars. But the fantastic spectacle of 1833, as well as similar ones in 1799 and 1866, come from a large swarm of particles which only comes by every 33 years.
Unfortunately, astronomers the world over, trembling with anticipation, observed nothing unusual at the last two predicted returns. They concluded that the swarm had been de- flected slightly by the gravitational pulls of Jupiter and Saturn. No one knows if the orbit has now been shifted back. The only indication that it might have is that the regular yearly meteor shower has been steadily increasing for the last three years.
According to Owen J. Gingerich, lecturer on Astronomy at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, the shooting stars could start falling by 11 p.m. tonight, with the spectacular shower, if it occurs, coming between 2 a.m. and dawn