The Lost Comet
July 1, 1770 - It was on this day that Lexell's Comet blazed a brilliant path across the evening sky. It is noted for being the comet that came closest to the earth...at least as far as recorded history is concerned. It came within 1,370,000 miles, which in astronomical terms is almost too close for comfort.
The comet was discovered only a month and a half earlier by the famous astronomer Charles Messier. As it lit up the night sky, the comet would appear to be 4 times the angular size of the moon.
The comet was named after the Russian mathematician Anders Johan Lexell. It was Lexell who computed the comet's orbit and predicted that upon its next encounter with Jupiter (in 1779), the planet's gravity would slingshot the comet out of the solar system.
Lexell was probably correct. His comet has never been seen again.