ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY ROYAL ASTRONOMICAL SOCIETY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Newton's comet calculations. Diagram and text of page 488 from 'Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica' (1686) by the English physicist Isaac Newton (1643-1727). This work laid the foundations of classical and celestial mechanics. This diagram shows that five of the six parameters of a comet's orbit (then thought to be parabolic) can be derived from three observations at approximately one-month intervals. This was the first time cometary orbits had been calculated, and Newton applied this method to the Great Comet of 1680. The text is in Latin, and mentions the comet, the Earth and the Sun, and the other labelled parts of the diagram.
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