CBC Digital Archives

The discovery of Comet Kohoutek

In 1609 Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei unveiled his first telescope. To mark the occasion, the United Nations declared 2009 the International Year of Astronomy. It is a year "to help the citizens of the world rediscover their place in the universe through the day and nighttime sky, and thereby engage a personal sense of wonder and discovery." The CBC Digital Archives looks at Canadian contributors to astronomy and our own trip through the cosmos.

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In March 1973, Czech astronomer Lubos Kohoutek discovers a new comet. His discovery becomes an international news story because Kohoutek holds great promise even for the casual stargazer. It is to be the brightest and longest comet to come close to earth since Halley's comet in 1910. The mystery and power of comets is discussed in this CBC Radio report.
• Kohoutek was the first comet to be observed and photographed from space. NASA's Skylab and the Soviet Union's Soyuz 13 were orbiting Earth at the time of its arrival. As the comet got closer to the sun the brighter it became, eventually becoming visible even to the naked eye.  

• Comet Kohoutek had quite an impact on popular culture. American Jazz composer and bandleader Sun Ra held a special Concert for Kohoutek in December 1973. The German techno-pop band Kraftwerk released their first single in Germany, called Kometenmelodie (comet melody) in the same month.  

• Kohoutek took on religious significance because it was scheduled to be brightest between mid-December 1973 and mid-January 1974. In North America, according to astronomer Helen Hogg, it was best seen in the late evening skies of mid-January.

Medium: Radio
Program: Five Nights
Broadcast Date: Dec. 24, 1973
Guest(s): Robin Armstrong, Herb Breithaupt, Philip Kronberg
Interviewer: Barry Hussey
Duration: 12:55
Photo: NASA Johnson Space Center

Last updated: November 14, 2014

Page consulted on November 14, 2014

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