Archaeoastronomy in East Asia: Historical Observational Records of Comets and Meteor Showers from China, Japan, and Korea

by David Pankenier, Zhentao Xu, and Yaotiao Jiang

Reviews

“A spectacular follow-up [to an earlier work] with the same high quality and the same excellent expertise … an important source of data and inspiration for a much wider circle of scholars for whom the historical study of astronomy is limited by language barriers.” –Journal for the History of Astronomy

"The connection between astronomical phenomena and epoch-making political and military events in China has long been recognized as rooted in strong cultural and religious beliefs. Starting in the 19th century, these accounts of "broom stars" and "stars raining down at night" have also caught the eye of astronomers, who quickly identified some with well known comets, such as comet 1P/Halley, and with known meteor showers, such as the Perseids and Leonids. In recent years, this data has gained new interest because of the increasing capability of computers. The accounts have been used to trace Perseid parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle and Leonid parent comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle back in time and greatly improve their orbits, which in turn has made it possible to calculate the exact location of dust ejected in these past returns. As a result, we now can predict the return of Leonid and Perseid storms and outbursts and identify many of the past storms as due to dust ejected in particular returns of the comet. For example, we now know that "a myriad stars moved erratically" over Japan and China on 1002 AD October 14 because of dust ejected in 935 AD by comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle, two orbits earlier. Before our eyes, legendary accounts of "stars fell like rain" from the time of emperors and court astrologers became historical accounts of astronomical events. This new compendium by Pankenier, Xu, and Jiang makes these past accounts accessible to modern astronomers, amateurs and professionals alike." - Dr. Peter Jenniskens, Research Scientist with the Carl Sagan Center at the SETI Institute, working on mission projects at NASA/Ames Research Center.


 

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