The illustration on page 88 gives the orbit of the earth and the orbit of this comet, and shows how closely they approached each other; when at its nearest, the comet was only distant from the earth 0.13 of the distance of the earth from the sun.
It comes back in eleven years, or in 1891.
On the 22d of June, 1881, a comet of great brilliancy flashed suddenly into view. It was unexpected, and advanced with tremendous rapidity. The illustration on page 89 will show how its flight intersected the orbit of the earth. At its nearest point, June 19th, it was distant
from the earth only 0.28 of the distance of the sun from the earth.
Now, it is to be remembered that great attention has been paid during the past few years to searching for comets, and some of the results are here given. As many as five were discovered during the year 1881. But not
ORBIT OF EARTH AND COMET
a few of the greatest of these strange orbs require thousands of years to complete their orbits. The period of the comet of July, 1844, has been estimated at not less than one hundred thousand years!
Some of those that have flashed into sight recently have been comparatively small, and their contact with
THE EARTH’S ORBIT
the earth might produce but trifling results. Others, again, are constructed on an extraordinary scale; but even the largest of these may be but children compared with the monsters that wander through space on orbits
that penetrate the remotest regions of the solar system, and even beyond it.
When we consider the millions of comets around us, and when we remember how near some of these have come to us during the last few years, who will undertake to say that during the last thirty thousand, fifty thousand, or one hundred thousand years, one of these erratic luminaries, with blazing front and train of débris, may not have come in collision with the earth?
THE CONSEQUENCES TO THE EARTH.
IN this chapter I shall try to show what effect the contact of a comet must have had upon the earth and its inhabitants.
I shall ask the reader to follow the argument closely first, that he may see whether any part of the theory is inconsistent with the well-established principles of natural philosophy; and, secondly, that he may bear the several steps in his memory, as he will find, as we proceed, that every detail of the mighty catastrophe has been preserved in the legends of mankind, and precisely in the order in which reason tells us they must have occurred.