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Comet 3D/Biela

This comet was first discovered in 1772 by Jacques Leibax Montaigne (1716-1785?), and also independently found and observed by Charles Messier (1730-1817) during this apparition. It was sighted again in 1805 when it was discovered by Pons.

Eventually, it was discovered by Wilhelm Freiherr von Biela on February 27, 1826. Biela discovered this comet in Aries, and calculated its orbit. He found this one to be short-periodic with a period of 6.62 years, and recognized the former apparitions mentioned above. Therefore, it became known as Biela's comet, or comet 3P/Biela, as it was the third comet to have been shown to be periodic by observations on different appearances.

Comet Biela was observed to decay into two comets in 1846, and observed for a last time in 1852. Its fragments are probably source of a meteor shower called Bielids, or Andromedids, occurring each year around November.

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Wilhelm Freiherr von Biela was born on March 19, 1782 in Roßlau near Stolpe am Harz, Germany. He became a Captain in Austrian armed forces, and participated in a number of military campaigns against Napoleon between 1805 and 1809. Later he served in numerous places, e.g. at Prague to 1824, at Josephstadt, Bohemia from 1824 to 1826, Naples and Vicenca, Italy in 1826, Botzen in 1831. Later, he was appointed as commandant of Rovigo, Venetia. He died February 18, 1856 in Venice.

Biela discovered three comets, in 1823, 1827, and 1831. The comets of 1823 and 1831 were independent co-discoveries, i.e. had been discovered some days earlier by other astronomers. Biela's only original discovery, the comet of 1827, was recognized by him to be periodic, as the third one known (see above).

Von Biela published several astronomical papers, mostly on his comet observations and calculations, and mostly in the Astronomische Nachrichten. Besides the three comets he was involved to discover, this includes a number of others. Among the other articles are observations of a light pillar emerging from the Sun after sunset, sunspot observations, some theorertical considerations on "comets falling into the Sun," sunspots, astronomy historical studies on comets and Tycho Brahe, and stellar occultations by the Moon.

Another publication, entitled "Die zweite grosse Weltenkraft, nebst Ideen über einige Geheimnisse der physischen Astronomie, oder Andeutungen zu einer Theorie der Tangentialkraft," appeared at Prague in 1836. He tried to use this theory to explain supposed relations between planetary rotation and satellite revolution periods.

Some biographical detail, together with information on comet 3P/Biela, is given in W.T. Lynn's Letters to the Editor in


Hartmut Frommert [contact]

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