Maria Mitchell In Her Own Words

Oct. 1882.  It seems strange that a comet should be an object of terror.  The beauty of this comet {referring to October 1882 comet}and that of 1861 and of 1881 and the general prosperous condition of the world affairs should do something to destroy this unfortunate prestige.  So far, in the records of history we have no knowledge of harm coming from these startling visits and in the doctrine of probabilities it is even chance that good and not evil may accrue novel changes. 

The year, 1882, and month, October, marked the thirty-fifth year anniversary of Maria Mitchell’s comet discovery on October 1, 1847.  Much of her life – and thousands of years before – were marked by the fear of a comet as a bad omen, a sign from the heavens above, an unexplained object that could bring an end to the Earth.  Even in 1882, a fear still existed among some – a fear of the unknown – something that could not be explained.  In fact, viewing comets with her father as a young girl, even eclipses, drew the attention of Nantucketers – some still afraid of the phenomena viewed by the family living at 1 Vestal Street even though they were living on a fairly enlightened island.