Comet 1664

On this day in 1664, as described in the book "Cape Cod Historical Almanac" by Donald G. Trayser, "the people of Cape Cod and other parts of New England saw the last of a great comet which excited fear and awe. It appeared November 8th last, and continued to this date, the third comet witnessed by early settlers in the space of 12 years.

"The first appeared in December, 1652, the second in February and March, 1661, and the third as noted above," Trayser wrote. "Comets were fearsome things to people in these days."

Trayser quotes Nathaniel Morton, secretary of Plimoth Colony, who wrote of the comet of 1663-64 that " ... it was no fiery meteor caused by exhalation, but it appeared to be sent immediately by God to awake the secure world."

"Night after night, 'the great blazing starre' was observed in the southern sky," Trayer wrote, "and for several years after it, all the calamities and evil things which occurred in the world were ascribed to it."

The period engraving shows two of the comets from the era (illustration credit).