Saturday, February 20, 2016

Comet of 1491: Self-Correction of Science

The Comet of 1491 is no longer considered the closest comet to approach the Earth
due to the unreliability of the data. (Image Source: )

By Glenn A. Walsh
Reporting for SpaceWatchtower

Some people question whether Science can be relied upon to provide a good explanation of our Universe. Other people even consider Science to be just another religion, of which people are asked to have faith in the infallibility of Science.

Many of these people do not understand the Scientific Method, and that scientific hypotheses and theories are often changed with the presentation of new information and / or the better understanding of older information.

A case in-point is the Comet of 1491. For many years, today (February 20) would have been considered the 525th anniversary of the day in 1491 when this comet came closer to the Earth than any other known comet. According to what was known until the twenty-first century, this comet approached within 873,784 miles / 1,406,219 kilometers of the Earth (almost four times the distance from the Earth to the Moon). This distance was determined in 1979 by plotting the orbital elements of the comet by Japanese researcher Ichiro Hasegawa, of the Faculty of Socio-Cultural Studies at Otemae University.

However in 2002, in an academic paper for the Astronomical Society of Japan titled, “Approximate Orbits of Ancient and Medieval Comets,” Dr. Hasegawa, himself, retracted the data, from 23 years earlier, that had concluded that the Comet of 1491 was the closest comet to ever approach the Earth. In the paper, he stated, "The orbital elements for Comet 1491 II = C / 1491 B1 (Hasegawa 1979) are to be retracted, because the records of this comet were misunderstood."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory concurs with this retraction. On their Internet web page titled, “Historic Comet Close Approaches Prior to 2006,” they wrote a special note near the top of the page:
Note: The comet of 1491 (1491 B1) has been removed from this table since its orbit is no longer thought to be reliable. See I. Hasegawa, Publ. Astronomical Society of Japan, 2002, vol. 54, pp. 1091-1099.”

This case shows that Science is continually checking and double-checking facts, and no scientist takes any particular fact on faith. In fact, even a researcher is willing to correct himself or herself, when new facts are discovered, or older facts are better understood.

Academic Paper: “Approximate Orbits of Ancient and Medieval Comets” by Dr. Ichiro Hasegawa ---
Link >>>

NASA / Jet Propulsion Laboratory Internet Web Page: “Historic Comet Close Approaches Prior to 2006” --- Link >>>

Scientific Method: Link >>>

Source: Glenn A. Walsh Reporting for SpaceWatchtower, a project of Friends of the Zeiss.
              2016 February 20.

                                                               Historic 10-inch Siderostat-type Refractor Telescope at Pittsburgh's original Buhl Planetarium and Institute of Popular Science.
        2016: 75th Year of Pittsburgh's Buhl Planetarium Observatory
                     Link >>>

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