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Sketch of the comet by Wilhem Tempel, 19 December 1865
Discovered byWilhelm Tempel and Horace Parnell Tuttle
Discovery dateDecember 19, 1865
1366 U1; 1699 U1;
1699 II; 1865 Y1;
1866 I; 1965 M2;
1965 IV; 1965i;
1997 E1
Orbital characteristics
(JD 2463000.5)
Aphelion19.96 AU
Perihelion0.9644 AU
Semi-major axis10.46 AU
Orbital period33.83 yr
Last perihelionFebruary 28, 1998[1]
Next perihelionMay 20, 2031[2][3][1][4]
Earth MOID0.008 AU (1,200,000 km)[5]
Physical characteristics
Dimensions3.6 km[5]

55P/Tempel–Tuttle (commonly known as Comet Tempel–Tuttle) is a retrograde periodic comet with an orbital period of 33 years. It fits the classical definition of a Halley-type comet with a period of between 20 and 200 years. It was independently discovered by Wilhelm Tempel on December 19, 1865, and by Horace Parnell Tuttle on January 6, 1866.

It is the parent body of the Leonid meteor shower. In 1699, it was observed by Gottfried Kirch[6] but was not recognized as a periodic comet until the discoveries by Tempel and Tuttle during the 1866 perihelion. In 1933, S. Kanda deduced that the comet of 1366 was Tempel–Tuttle, which was confirmed by Joachim Schubart in 1965.[6] On 26 October 1366, the comet passed 0.0229 AU (3,430,000 km; 2,130,000 mi; 8.9 LD) from Earth.[7]

Comet Tempel-Tuttle was recovered on March 4, 1997 by Karen Meech, Olivier Hainaut and James "Gerbs" Bauer, at the University of Hawai`i. At the time it was very faint (22.5 mag), but the recovery proved that it was returning on schedule and that its orbit was very well determined. [8]

The retrograde orbit of 55P/Tempel–Tuttle causes meteors to impact Earth at a high speed of 70 km/s. The orbit intersects that of Earth nearly exactly, hence streams of material ejected from the comet during perihelion passages do not have to spread out much over time to encounter Earth. The comet currently has an Earth-MOID of 0.008 AU (1,200,000 km; 740,000 mi).[5] This coincidence means that past streams from the comet at perihelion are still dense when they encounter Earth, resulting in the 33-year cycle of Leonid meteor storms. For example, the 1833 meteor storm was created by the previous 1800 perihelion passage.[9] Between 2021–2030, Earth will often pass through the meteoroid stream left behind from the 1733 orbit.[10]

55P/Tempel–Tuttle Earth approaches
Year Nominal geocentric
distance (AU)
1366 0.023 AU (3.4 million km)[7][6]
1699 0.064 AU (9.6 million km)[1][6]
1832 0.171 AU (25.6 million km)[11][1]
1998 0.356 AU (53.3 million km)[12][1]
2031 0.791 AU (118.3 million km)[13][1]
2163 0.132 AU (19.7 million km)[5]

55P/Tempel–Tuttle is estimated to have a nucleus of mass 1.2×1013 kg[14] and radius 1.8 km[14] and a stream of mass 5×1012 kg.[14]

Animation of 55P/Tempel–Tuttle's orbit from 1990 to 2180
Around Sun
Around Earth
   Sun ·    Earth ·    Mars ·    Jupiter ·   55P/Tempel–Tuttle

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Kinoshita, Kazuo (16 September 1999). "55P/Tempel-Tuttle past, present and future orbital elements". Comet Orbit. Archived from the original on 20 May 2011. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  2. ^ Seiichi Yoshida (12 December 2005). "55P/Tempel-Tuttle". Seiichi Yoshida's Comet Catalog. Retrieved 18 February 2012.
  3. ^ "Horizons Batch for 55P/Tempel-Tuttle (90000621) at 2031-May-20 23:45:52" (Perihelion occurs when rdot flips from negative to positive). JPL Horizons. Retrieved 26 August 2023. (JPL#J985/69 Soln.date: 2002-Jan-03)
  4. ^ "55P/Tempel-Tuttle Orbit". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  5. ^ a b c d "JPL Small-Body Database Browser: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle" (last observation: 1998-07-05). Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Archived from the original on 2 February 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d C&MS: 55P/Tempel-Tuttle
  7. ^ a b "Closest Approaches to the Earth by Comets". Minor Planet Center. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ Archive of Leonid dust trail positions in 1833
  10. ^ Mikhail, Maslov. "Leonids 2021-2030". Archived from the original on 10 June 2021. Retrieved 10 June 2021.
  11. ^ "Horizons Batch for 55P/Tempel-Tuttle (90000621) at 1832-Dec-16" (J985 fits data all the way back to 1865). JPL Horizons. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  12. ^ "Horizons Batch for 55P/Tempel-Tuttle (90000621) at 1998-Jan-17" (Closest Earth approach occurs when deldot flips from negative to positive). JPL Horizons. Retrieved 6 September 2023.
  13. ^ "Horizons Batch for 55P/Tempel-Tuttle (90000621) at 2031-Feb-25" (Closest Earth approach occurs when deldot flips from negative to positive). JPL Horizons. Retrieved 5 September 2023. (JPL#J985/69 Soln.date: 2002-Jan-03)
  14. ^ a b c David C. Jewitt. "From Cradle To Grave: The Rise and Demise of the Comets" (PDF). Comets II. Retrieved 12 November 2009.

External links[edit]

Numbered comets
54P/de Vico–Swift–NEAT
55P/Tempel–Tuttle Next