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Document number: 3123
Date: 30 Aug 1835
Recipient: LUBBOCK John William
Author: TALBOT William Henry Fox
Collection: Royal Society, London
Collection number: LUB 38 T8
Last updated: 30th April 2012

Lacock Abbey, near Chippenham
Aug. 30. 1835

My Dear Sir

As you have calculated the orbit of Halley’s Comet, <1> I hasten to communicate to you an observation I have made of it, wishing to know whether it agrees with those observations which no doubt have been made of it in the regular observatories.

Seeing in the newspapers that Sir J. South and Mr Hussey <2> had found the comet, I directed a pretty good telescope which I possess to the point of the heavens indicated by them, and at 2 A.M of the 28th August, the sky being very clear, I perceived a nebulous cloud of extreme faintness, situated exactly where I expected to find it according to their statements. At that time (Aug. 27. 14h) it stood very near to a considerable star, which is laid down in Harding’s [illegible deletion] Atlas Cćlestis <3> in

A.R. 5h 44′ 40″
D. 24° 14′

nearly with this Star & 2 telescopic stars that are close to it, it formed a parallelogram therefore if necessary, I could deduce its position pretty exactly, within 1′ or 2′ of the truth. There was no other nebulosity visible within several degrees each way, therefore I conclude that the body I observed was the comet, which cloudy weather has since prevented me from observing. And as to the star I don’t think I can be mistaken with respect to its identity.

The observed position then differs from the Ephemeris given in the Nautical Almanac, <4> nearly
in A.R. half a degree
in Decl. one degree & a quarter

There are two other ephemerises given in the nautical Almanac, on the supposition of a variation of ±4 days in the perihelion passage. But the comet is without the limits so given, so that it appears that the time of perih. Passage (Nov. 7.) is in error more than 4 days. If tonight proves clear I intend to observe whether the nebulous body has moved from its place of Aug. 27, which will be decisive. I should be very glad to hear whether the observations you may have made of the comet, at all confirm the preceding statement.

Believe me to remain Dear Sir Yours very truly
H. F. Talbot

P.S. I was prevented from completing my mathematical paper <5> during the late session of the Royal Society by very long and serious illness <6> in my family. I have now taken it in hand once more & hope during the autumn to terminate it.

J.W. Lubbock Esqre
29 Eaton Place


1. See Doc. No: 03113.

2. Sir James South (1785–1867), astronomer, and the Rev Thomas John Hussey (1792-1854), amateur astronomer, rector of Hayes, Kent.

3. Karl Ludwig Harding (1765–1834), Atlas Novus Coelestis (Göttingen: 1808, 1822). WHFT owned a copy of the 1822 edition.

4. Nautical Almanac of Astronomical Ephemera (London: published by order of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty).

5. WHFT, ‘Researches in the Integral Calculus, Part One’ Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, v. 126 part 1, 1836, pp. 177–215.

6. Constance was ill for some weeks after the birth of their first child, Ela Theresa, on 25 April 1835.

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