A History of Physical Theories of Comets, From Aristotle to Whipple

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Springer Science & Business Media, 23.05.2008 - 278 Seiten
Although the development of ideas about the motion and trajectory of comets has been investigated piecemeal, we lack a comprehensive and detailed survey of ph- ical theories of comets. The available works either illustrate relatively short periods in the history of physical cometology or portray a landscape view without adequate details. The present study is an attempt to review – with more details – the major physical theories of comets in the past two millennia, from Aristotle to Whipple. My research, however, did not begin with antiquity. The basic question from which this project originated was a simple inquiry about the cosmic identity of comets at the dawn of the astronomical revolution: how did natural philosophers and astronomers define the nature and place of a new category of celestial objects – comets – after Brahe’s estimation of cometary distances? It was from this turning point in the history of cometary theories that I expanded my studies in both the pre-modern and modern eras. A study starting merely from Brahe and ending with Newton, without covering classical and medieval thought about comets, would be incomplete and leave the fascinating achievements of post-Newtonian cometology unexplored.
 

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Inhalt

Aristotles Theory of Comets
1
The Aristotelian Structure of the Sublunar Region
4
Shooting Stars
8
Formation and Kinds
9
The Milky Way
15
A General Evaluation
16
After Aristotle
20
Continuation of Aristotles Meteorology in the Early Medieval and Islamic Era
23
Henry Pemberton
140
Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire
141
Roger Long
143
Colin Maclaurin
144
Conclusion
146
NonNewtonian Theories of Comets
151
Mairans Theory of Cometary Tails
154
John Rowning
156

Comets in the Islamic World
28
From Peter of Limoges to Regiomontanus
34
A New Chapter in Cometology
37
Parallax
39
Tycho Brahe and the Comet 1577
41
Brahes Optical Theory of Comets
45
Tychos Contemporaries
46
Conclusion
49
From Brahe to Newton
53
The Great Debate
56
Galileos Comet
61
Keplers Theory of Comets
64
Comets in Descartes Cosmos
67
A Comets Trajectory Among the Vortices
75
Descartes Theory of Cometary Tails
77
Conclusions
84
Comets in Newtonian Physics
88
Comets in the Principia
93
Comets in the Opticks and Later Works
102
A General Assessment
105
The Cosmological Roles of Newtons Comet Versus Its Physical Constitution
118
Conclusion
122
After Newton
125
The PostNewtonian Newtonian Theories of Comets William Whiston and Edmund Halley
129
David Gregory
135
Eulers Theory of Tail Formation
159
Cosmogony of Comets
164
The Age of Electricity
168
Hugh Hamilton 17291805
174
Conclusion
183
Comets in the Laplacian Cosmos
187
Herschels Evolving Universe
189
PierreSimon Marquis De Laplace 17491827
193
A Probabilistic Approach
194
The Mass of Comets
196
The Structure of Comets
200
Comets and the Nebular Hypothesis
206
Conclusion
207
Comets in the PostLaplacian Era
211
Bessels Jet Theory
214
The Mystery of Comet Biela
217
New Electrical Theories of Tail Formation
221
The Pressure of Light
228
Spectroscopic Study of Comets
231
Whipples Theory of Comets
239
Summary and Concluding Remarks
245
Bibliography
253
Index
269
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