Monday, January 23, 2012

from The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1809

(page 480)

XI. On the Remarkable Meteor seen Aug. 18, 1783. By Wm. Cooper, D.D., F.R.S., Archdeacon of York. p. 116

No person, says Dr. C., could have a better opportunity of discerning this awful meteor than myself. The weather being, for this climate, astonishingly hot, by Fahrenheit's thermometer, on a north position, and in the open air, having for several days preceding graduated between the hours of 10 in the morning and 7 in the evening from 74° to 82°, I set out on a journey to the sea side. The weather was sultry, the atmosphere hazy, and not a breath of air stirring.

Towards 9 at night it was so dark, that I could scarcely discern the hedges, road, or even the horses' heads. As we proceeded, I observed to my attendants, that there was something singularly striking in the appearance of the night, not merely from its stillness and darkness, but from the sulphureous vapours which seemed to surround us on every side. In the midst of this gloom, and on an instant, a brilliant tremulous light appeared to the N.W. by N. At first it seemed stationary; but in a short time it burst from its position and took its course to the S.E. by E. It passed directly over our heads with a buzzing noise, seemingly at the height of 60 yards. Its tail, as far as the eye could form any judgment, was about 8 or 10 yards in length. At last, this wonderful meteor divided into several glowing parts or balls of fire, the chief part still remaining in its full splendour.

Soon after this I heard two great explosions, each equal to the report of a cannon carrying a 9 lb. ball. During its progress, the whole of the atmosphere, as far as I could discern, was perfectly illuminated with the most beautifully vivid light I ever remember to have seen. The horses on which we rode shrunk with fear; and some people whom we met on the road declared their consternation in the most expressive terms.

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