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By Wikipedia

Comet Kohoutek, formally designated C/1973 E1, 1973 XII, and 1973f, was first sighted on March 7, 1973 by Czech astronomer Luboš Kohoutek. It attained perihelion on December 26 that same year.

After its discovery in March, it was quickly proclaimed the Comet of the Century and was expected to put on quite a show. It failed to impress and the Comet's name quickly became the punchline to many a joke. 

Kohoutek is a long period comet, with an orbital period of approximately 75,000 years. Scientists theorized that Kohoutek was an Oort Cloud Object and, as such, it was believed likely that this was the comet's first visit to the inner solar system, which would result in a spectacular display of outgassing. The scientists had a lot to learn about comets, however, and Kohoutek's display was considered a let-down, leading some to nickname it "Comet Watergate". Infrared and visual telescopic study have led many scientists to conclude, in retrospect, that Kohoutek is actually a Kuiper belt object, which would account for its apparent rocky makeup and lack of outgassing.

Because Comet Kohoutek fell far short of expectations its name became synonymous with spectacular duds. Even Skylab astronauts had trouble seeing the comet by early January.



courtesy of NASA

Comet Kohoutek in Pop Culture

  • The jazz composer Sun Ra performed the Concert for the Comet Kohoutek in December 1973.
  • The first single of German avant-garde music group Kraftwerk, released in December 1973, was called "Kohoutek-Kometenmelodie". On the album Autobahn, which appeared a few months later, the track title was shortened to "Kometenmelodie" (comet melody).
  • Argent's 1974 album Nexus (album) begins with three linked tracks inspired by Kohoutek: "The Coming of Kohoutek"; "Once Around the Sun"; and "Infinite Wanderer".
  • The rock band Journey wrote and recorded the instrumental "Kohoutek", which appeared on their self-titled debut album Journey in 1975.
  • The rock band R.E.M. named a song "Kohoutek" on their 1985 album Fables of the Reconstruction.
  • Bill Carroll released an album in 1994 titled Kohoutek.
  • The English techno group 808 State wrote and recorded the instrumental "Kohoutek", which appeared on their 1996 album Don Solaris.
  • On an episode of The Simpsons, principal Skinner comments that he once missed the chance to name a comet after himself, vowing revenge on "Principal Kohoutek... him and that boy of his!"

 

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DISASTER DETAILS

Path of Comet Kohoutek relative to the Sun, Venus and Earth.

Courtesy of NASA

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from this Wikipedia article, which is probably more up to date than ours (retrieved August 12, 2005).

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