Java, late October 1965 and I was 13 years old at the time. That night our father woke us up and told us to go outside to see “lintang kemukus”. It is a Javanese name for a comet. When I looked up, there almost filling across the dark sky was the bright tail of Ikeya Seki Comet. It was so bright and so big that I could see white things floating in it (I’m not sure what they are… could be ice particles or space dust ??). I was standing there with mouth opened wide and my heart beating so fast. Despite the breathtaking beauty, it actually scared me. Was it a message from God? I just felt so humble….
The night after, we checked it again and it was still there as brilliant as before. I heard rumours that the comet was a sign of disaster bound to happen. The old belief said that a comet as bright as that was a sign of bad luck or even the end of the world. The result was that it brought more fear in me. I could not look at it for too long as I started to tremble. (Back in 1965, my knowledge of comets was just about zero. To day we can find any infos as easy as looking at the internet) For many nights it was there until it started to fade and reduced in size and disappeared completely.
Link for another witness of this great comet:
Facts about Ikeya-Seki Comet:
Comet Ikeya-Seki, formally designated C/1965 S1, 1965 VIII, and 1965f, was a comet discovered independently by Kaoru Ikeya and Tsutomu Seki. First observed as a faint telescopic object on September 18, 1965, the first calculations of its orbit suggested that on October 21, it would pass just 450,000 km above the Sun’s surface, and would probably become extremely bright.
Comets can defy all predictions, but Ikeya-Seki performed as expected. As it approached perihelion observers reported that it was clearly visible in the daytime sky next to the Sun. In Japan, where it reached perihelion at local noon, it was seen shining at magnitude −10. It proved to be one of the brightest comets seen in the last thousand years, and is sometimes known as the Great Comet of 1965.
The comet was seen to break into three pieces just before its perihelion passage. The three pieces continued in almost identical orbits, and the comet re-appeared in the morning sky in late October, showing a very bright tail. By early 1966, it had faded from view as it receded into the outer solar system.
Ikeya-Seki was a member of the Kreutz Sungrazers, which are all fragments of a large comet which broke up in 1106. The two largest fragments of Ikeya-Seki, labeled S1-A and S1-B, will return to the inner Solar System in 877 and 1,056 years, respectively.(JPL).
It is also said that at its maximum length, Ikeya-Seki’s tail extended for 70 million miles, ranking it as the fourth largest ever recorded. Only the Great Comets of 1680, 1811 and 1843 had tails stretching farther out into space. While the comet’s head faded rapidly, the tail continued to be visible well into November even as the comet moved rapidly away from the Sun. (Joe Rao).
Gaping mouths in awe and admiration
Massive, it could be seen through naked eye
Heavenly display very uncommon
Ikeya-Seki comet filled the night sky
Floating in the tail was clear white hue
So vivid, it’s beauty brought dread and fear
In wonder, my young mind raced for a clue
Feeling like in God’s present I shivered
For many nights it appeared before our eyes
Rumours of world’s end was going around
Then it started to fade with no disguise
Life still exists long after it has gone
Other comets are nothing to compare
To October Nineteen Sixty Five’s glare
Poem written by: Lois B
Other blog about the comet: https://kiyanti2008.wordpress.com/2009/10/25/komet-ikeya-seki/