damn you, British astronomers!

I’ve been digging for ages now, attempting to discover when people in Britain first sighted Halley’s comet in 1759. Not when it was first seen in general; I know Palitzsch spotted it on Christmas Day, 1758, and Messier picked it up a month later, and then lots of people saw it after perihelion, throughout March and April. So I figured that if I aimed to have this book in seven sections, one per season, then I should start in summer 1757, because odds were it got spotted in Britain some time in winter 1759.

Those lazy bastards of eighteenth-century British astronomy apparently didn’t pick up the damn thing until April 30th. Which means that, for the purpose of my structure, I need to start the book in autumn 1757.

It isn’t a simple matter of changing date stamps on the scenes, either. Galen’s conversation with his father is partly predicated on the assumption that it’s summer, and therefore a lousy time to be attempting any kind of large-scale social networking. Ergo, his attempts on that front don’t begin until part two. Also, there’s a scene that has to take place on October 3rd, but part one is too early to use it, so I’ll have to rework that idea for part five instead. Etc. Etc.

The worst part is, I think this change will be a good thing. Example: I couldn’t introduce the Royal Society properly until part two, because they were on hiatus from June until November 10th. Problem solved! Now I can have them in play sooner. Another example: there was a comet sighted in late September/early October, that I was having trouble working into the scene flow of part two. It will, however, do very nicely for an early note in part one. I suspect a whole lot of things will balance out more usefully once I boot the story back one season. But this is going to mean a crap-ton of very frustrating revision on the 33.5K I already have written, because I didn’t find the answer I needed until just now. And that’s almost certainly going to put me behind, because I think I need to get my extant wordage sorted out before I’ll be okay to proceed forward.


And sigh. I do think things will be better this way. But I’m rather ticked at myself for not turning this info up sooner, and at Bradley and all his cohort for failing to spot the bloody comet until almost May. We’re going to have to make some changes around here . . . .

0 Responses to “damn you, British astronomers!”

  1. fjm

    Purplecthulu is an astronomer and always available for assistance.

    • Marie Brennan

      . . . I assume that’s an LJ name.

      Though at first, I thought you were offering me the comfort of a plushy stuffed Cthulhu toy or something. Which seemed very fitting somehow.

  2. beccastareyes

    I’m trying to remember. I remember my adviser is a big astronomy history geek and at one point he mentioned a period where the big focus was celestial mechanics — developing mathematical models that precisely capture the motions of the solar system. (I think he said it was in the early 1700s — you could tell because of the gaps between the satellite discoveries. Cassini and Huygens did a lot of work in the late 1600s, and Herschel made the next big discoveries in the latter part of the 1700s.

    • Marie Brennan

      Clairaut, Lalande, and Mme Lepaute did massive number-crunching in 1758 to figure out the upcoming perihelion of the comet, and as I understand it that was a fairly big deal because they’d only just figured out how to handle the three-body problem in gravitation.

  3. la_marquise_de_

    Well, we do get a lot of rain…. Maybe it was solidly cloudy till then?

  4. squishymeister

    Thinking about the writing process makes my brain go gooey-gurk.

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