“brighter than well-known nebulas” — Morgan Silver Dollar Coin

Today, the Morgan Silver Dollar Coin remembers the discovery of a comet between moon set and sunrise at the Smith Observatory in Geneva, New York 129 years ago.

Afterwards, announcements of the discovery could be found in the astronomy and scientific journals of the day.

Similar yet different announcements from three different periodicals are shown below:


Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society of March 8, 1889:


Discovery of Comet Brooks, a 1889. By William R. Brooks.

While sweeping the eastern heavens in the neighborhood of the Sun, on the morning of January 15, 1889, at 6h 5m L.M.T., I discovered a new comet in approximately R.A. 18h 04m; declination south 21° 20′.

I had only time to take the circle readings for position — the instrument used being the new 10 1/8 inch equatorial of this observatory, with a large achromatic positive eyepiece giving a power of 40 diameters, and a field of 1° 20′.

The nearly full Moon was just setting, and the dawn approaching, so I had but a short time in which to do my work; but fortunately the comet was in a well-marked field of telescopic stars, and so I was enabled to detect motion in a few minutes, which was rapid in a westerly course.

In the annexed diagram I show the stars used to detect motion, by alineation, my usual custom.

The comet was nearly round, with slight central condensation.

It was ” faintish,” yet brighter than well-known nebulas in that region which were not seen.

I was sure of its cometary nature, as I am now, and also of motion, which was unmistakable. Immediate telegraphic announcement was made of the discovery.

Clouds prevented another observation of the comet until the morning of the 20th, when careful sweeps were made in the direction of motion from the place of discovery, but the search was unsuccessful, owing to the bright moonlight — the Moon being only three days past the full.

No other opportunity has since offered at this observatory to re-observe the comet.

It must now be a long distance west of its position at the time of discovery and probably fainter, for I must have caught the object just as it was sweeping upwards from the Sun.

Yet it is hoped that the comet may not be beyond telescopic reach when the present Moon is out of the way.


The Sidereal Messenger of February 1889:


Discovery of Comet Brooks — a of 1889.

While sweeping the eastern heavens this morning as near as possible to the sun , I discovered a new comet, in Right Ascension 18h 4m; declination south 21° 20′.

It is a faintish, nearly round nebulosity, with slight central condensation.

I caught it in the short interval between the disappearing moon and the coming dawn.

I had but a few minutes to do my work, but fortunately the comet was in a well marked field of stars so that its motion, which I found to be rather rapid westerly, was detected in a few minutes of intent gazing, as the day dawn extinguished the light of the comet.

William R. Brooks. Smith Observatory, Geneva, N. Y., Jan. 15, 1889.


The Journal of the Liverpool Astronomical Society of March 1889:


Discovery of Comet Brooks a of 1889. William R. Brooks, F.R.A.S.

While sweeping the eastern heavens this morning as near to the sun as possible, with my new 10 1/8 -inch equatoreal, I discovered a new comet — the first of the new year.

Its approximate position was 18 hours 4 minutes in Right Ascension; 21  21′ in south declination.

I found it while the nearly full moon was fast setting and just before the dawn appeared.

Consequently there was but little time to do my work in securing the position and motion of the comet, but, very fortunately, it was in a well- marked field of telescopic stars, so that motion was detected in a few minutes, which was rapid in a westerly course.

The appearance of the comet is that of a nearly round, nebulous mass, with slight central condensation, and ” faintish.”

Under better conditions of seeing, and on a dark sky it would, I think, be fairly bright telescopic.

Smith Observatory, Geneva, N.Y., U.S.A., January 15, 1889.


The Morgan Silver Dollar Coin shows with the artist’s image of Brooks Comet a on January 15, 1889.

Morgan Silver Dollar Coin