1850 METEOR! - HAMPSTEAD HEATH - 2016***

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1850 METEOR!

Splendid Meteor Seen on Saturday Night
(from The London Illustrated News, February 16th, 1850)

The night became calm and clear, with a few clouds on the horizon, and the stars shone with remarkable brightness. At a little before eleven o'clock I was struck by the appearance of a brilliant light resembling a continuing gleam of lightning but which, on looking up, I perceived to proceed from an elongated luminous ball, falling rapidly from the zenith to the eastern horizon.

It appeared like a mass of molten metal, but a little smaller than the moon's disc, and comparatively at a short distance from my place of observation.

The light given off was intense, and rendered the whole landscape distinctly visible. When approaching the earth it seemed to burst, but without noise. A shower of luminous fragments, like red-hot stones, was discharged, or rather fell through, but were soon extinguished. The whole phenomenon was visible, as far as I could judge, for about sixty seconds.

In general appearance it more resembled what is usually understood as a meteor, but its magnitude and apparent nearness was remarkable. Had it, however, exploded with detonation, I should have supposed it to be a aerolite.

I was an eye-witness of a splendid meteor on the night of Monday, the 11th inst., at twenty minutes to eleven o'clock. It first appeared like a star, about four times as large as Venus, with a dull golden lustre, and rapidly increased in brightness till it became a white light, resembling an immense diamond, and put forth a tail like a waving blade of red flame; as it proceeded, the tail either disappeared or was lost in the increased brightness of the head, which at last shone so brilliantly as to light up the whole atmosphere -  the light certainly far exceeded that of the full moon; it then became suddenly extinguished.

It evidently displayed the process of combustion. I first saw it somewhere a little above the Pleiades, and it descended obliquely towards the north, and disappeared about the lower part of  Cassiopeia. I think its greatest length was about 2o; the length of its visible path about 15o or 20o; and the time it was visible three or four seconds.

I thought the last I saw of the meteor as the light vanished was a red spot, but it disappeared instantaneously.

I looked round at the clock directly it had disappeared and it was exactly twenty minutes to eleven.

The position and appearance of our celestial visitor as seen from Hampstead Heath

While astronomers the world over have been eagerly watching the approach of Halley's Comet, another celestial visitor has unexpectedly swum into our ken.

The new apparition is of such unusual brightness that it is visible in daylight.

It was first detected by two miners in Johannesburgh on January 17, and before the end of the week had become prominent enough to attract universal attention.

No one in fog-bound London seems to have seen it, but on two evenings last week it was plainly visible from Hampstead Heath, where our artist had a good view of it.

He writes: "My drawing represents the position of the Great Comet (1910 A) and its appearance as seen about 5.10 p.m on the 21st inst.

The tail had the appearance of a bright golden ray , and I could trace it for at least eight times the moon's diameter, in a north-easterly direction.

The tail was most distinct some distance from the nucleus, which shone brighter than Mars."


Aurora Borealis, Hampstead Heath, Pictorial News, 1847 ~

This magnificent phenomenon displayed itself on Sunday night last in a most remarkable manner.

It was visible from all parts of the metropolis and suburbs, but was seen to the best advantage from the tops of Hampstead Hill, near South End Green, from which spot our illustration was taken.

The rays of light commenced in the north-eastern part of the horizon, shooting up in sheets of vivid flame, gradually assuming a pale hue and then falling away into a deep scarlet.

The phenomenon was first seen about six o' clock in the evening, and kept on increasing in brilliancy until the entire northern horizon to the zenith was one mass of silver light, the dark sky showing through the rays like black stripes.

The time at which our sketch was drawn was about ten o'clock, when the beautiful display had reached its highest point.

To the right are more heavenly phenomena, occurring between 1934 and 1936 in newspaper articles of the time.

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