Comet Encke

Comet Encke (officially designated 2P/Encke) is a periodic comet, named after Johann Franz Encke, who through laborious study of its orbit and many calculations was able to link multiple observations in 1786 (2P/1786 B1), 1795 (2P/1795 V1), 1805 (2P/1805 U1) and 1818 (2P/1818 W1) to the same object. In 1819 he published his conclusions in the journal Correspondance astronomique, and predicted correctly its return in 1822 (2P/1822 L1).

As its official designation implies, Encke's Comet was the second periodic comet discovered after Halley's Comet (a.k.a. 1P/Halley). It is unusual in that it was named after the person who calculated its orbit rather than the person who discovered it (Pierre Méchain).

The tail of Comet Encke was temporarily torn off on November 1st, 2007 by magnetic field disturbances caused by a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) - a blast of solar particles from the sun. The tail will grow back due to the continuous shedding of dust and gas by the comet.

Some consider the Bronze Age breakup of an originally larger comet of which Comet Encke is a member to be responsible for ancient destruction in the Fertile Crescent, perhaps evidenced by a large (unconfirmed) meteorite crater in Iraq identified as Umm al Binni lake. The origin of the swastika has also been connected with Comet Encke. It has also been suggested that the object likely to have been responsible for the Tunguska event in 1908 was a fragment of Comet Encke.

The failed CONTOUR mission was launched to study this comet, as well as Schwassmann-Wachmann 3.

Meteor Showers

Comet Encke is believed to be the originator of several related meteor showers - the Taurids, which are encountered as the Northern and Southern Taurids across November, and the Beta Taurids, in late June and early July (See also Whipple, 1940; Klačka, 1999).

Comet core parameters

Diameter: 1–3 km


See the biography of Johann Franz Encke.


  • Klačka, Jozef (1999). "Meteor Streams of Comet Encke. Taurid Meteor Complex". Abstract
  • Whipple, F.L. (1940). "Photographic meteor studies. III. The Taurid shower." Proc. Amer. Phil. Soc., 83, 711-745.
  • Master, S. and Woldai, T. (2004) The UMM Al Binni structure in the Mesopotamian marshlands of Southern Iraq, as a postulated late holocene meteorite impact crater : geological setting and new LANDSAT ETM + and Aster satellite imagery. Johannesburg, University of Witwatersrand, Economic Geology Research Institute (EGRI), 2004. EGRI - HALL : information circular 382, p. 21 (1.56 MB)

  • Master, S. and Woldai, T. (2004) Umm al Binni structure, southern Iraq, as a postulated late holocene meteorite impact crater : new satellite imagery and proposals for future research. Presented at the ICSU workshop : comet - asteroid impacts and human society, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, November 27- December 2, 2004. p. 20
  • Hamacher, D. W. (2005) "The Umm Al Binni Structure and Bronze Age Catastrophes", The Artifact: Publications of the El Paso Archaeological Society, Vol. 43
  • Hamacher, D. W. (2006) "Umm al Binni lake: Effects of a possible Holocene bolide impact", Astronomical Society of Australia Meeting 40, #15

External links

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