Comet theories, 16th century

Comet theories, 16th century

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Credit: MIDDLE TEMPLE LIBRARY/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Comet theories. 16th-century artwork from a book about comets. The view looks north (Aquilo is the north wind). The book's text refers to two 'ghost' stars in Cassiopeia (probably the nova of 1572) and a flaming sky (a supposed effect of comets). This woodcut is from 'De cometis dissertationes novae' (1580) by the Swiss physician and theologian Thomas Erastus (1524-1583). This was part of a debate taking place in Europe at the time, prompted by the comet of 1577-8. Erastus argued that comets could not cause pestilence as was popularly believed. Caecius is the north-east wind, and Argestes the north-west wind.

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