Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3B, 2006
Photo: Alex(andru) Conu

A series of three articles first published as “Parents of Meteors”
by the International Meteor Organization


(Three Romanian Amusing Items)

-by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe and Alastair McBeath (Vice-President
of the International Meteor Organization)-

(first published in Proceedings of the International Meteor Conference - Varna,
Bulgaria, 23-26 September 2004,
International Meteor Organization 2005)

1. Introduction

From time to time in our Meteor Beliefs Project research,
we come across things of interest which do not strictly fit within that project.
This paper presents three Romanian items, not about meteors,
but about their parent bodies.

Although in Romanian tradition (as well as in other countries)
comets were named “tailed stars” (as meteors were named “falling stars”)
and forewarned misfortune (Ottescu, 1907),
these are rather more light-hearted items.

2. “The House of the Comet”

The town of Sibiu in Transylvania, in the center of Romania,
was founded by the Saxons, and was first named Hermannstadt.
The oldest surviving house in this town is 16-Avram Iancu Street,
and was built in the 14th century.
During its history, it served as a library, a secret hiding place for participants
in the 1848 revolution, a bakery and a printing house.
Its nickname, “the house of the comet”, came from the middle of the 19th century,
when it began to be lived in by Johann Boebel, the chief-baker in this town.
He also was an amateur painter and used to exhibit his works in the windows.

The main explanation was that the people, inspired by Boebel’s pictures,
nicknamed it as “the house of the comet” not from “comet”,
but from “comedy” (Gadea, 2004)!
(In the Romanian, “comet” is “cometa”, and “comedy” is “comedie”,
a happy coincidence for both English and Romanian).
Another (unconfimed) explanation would be that Johann Boebel
really painted a comet (or even a fireball, because the folks of those times
did not make a categorical difference between the two),
and exhibited this picture in one of the windows.

3. “To The Comet Announced for June 13th”

In 1857,
some Romanian newspapers announced an apparently inevitable cataclysm,
that a comet was to hit the Earth!
The Romanian writer, poet and author of fables,
Grigore Alecsandrescu (1810-1885),
wrote an ironic poem, “To The Comet Announced For June 13th”,
from which we quote the first part (from Calinescu, 1982) in our translation:

Comet with long tails and short mind,
Why do you want to burn the globe on which we live?
It’s true, the Earth isn’t worth much, but we still have reasons
To prolong its life a little!

Coincidentally, Grigore Alecsandrescu lived in the town of Targoviste,
the headquarters
of the modern Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy-SARM.

4. “Planetary Circus”

In his poem, “Planetary Circus” (1923, see Dima, 1982),
the important Romanian poet Ion Pillat (1891-1945)
wrote about the planets walking in humorous costumes.
Among them, he included other heavenly bodies participating in this parade:

Comets, stupid clowns,
Disturbing the sky’s habit.

Coincidentally too, Ion Pillat was an uncle to Calin Niculae,
the best-known modern computer astro-artist in Romania,
some of his works having been exhibited at previous IMCs.


-Calinescu, G. (1982), “Romanian Literature History” (2nd edition),
Minerva Publishing House, Bucharest;
-Dima, A., (1982), “Cosmic Vision in Romanian Poetry”,
Junimea Publishing House, Iasi;
-Gadea, F. (2004), Romania Libera (newspaper), Bucharest, 2004 August 7;
-Ottescu, I. (1907), “Romanian Peasants’ Beliefs in Stars and Sky”,
Romanian Academy Annals, Bucharest.  

Andrei Dorian Gheorghe and Alastair McBeath in front of the SARM poster
at the International Meteor Conference - Petnica (Yugoslavia), 1997
Photo: Valentin Grigore


-by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe-

(first published in Proceedings of the International Meteor Conference - Oostmalle,
Belgium, 15-18 September 2005,
International Meteor Organization 2006)

1. Comets and Meteors

Taking in consideration that the connection between comets and meteors
entered in humanity consciousness in the XIXth century,
we looked for such old literary examples in Romanian poetry
and found some interesting verses in the astronomical poem
To Infinity - written by Alexandru Anestin and published
in his brother Victor Anestin’s astronomical magazine Orion
(Bucharest, Romania, 1908) - in which two characters fly in the Universe and…

They penetrate diaphanous and pale comets,
Which pass animated on an own movement,
Giant phantasms of traveling hoarfrost
Sending their white light to the chaos,
Silver from the fluttering of the giant hair…

As Alexandru Anestin was a good amateur astronomer, and his poem was published
after the connection between the comets and meteors was already demonstrated,
the last part of this quotation seems clearly to be an allusion to the sons of the comets,
the meteors.

2. About Victor Anestin

I reminded again of Victor Anestin, the older champion in
popularizing astronomy in Romania.
This year the Romanian sky lovers celebrate 130 years since his birth.
As Alastair McBeath and I told in IMO publications about aspects of
his meteor work, I have to be complete now by saying that in his book
Learning the Stars, published in 1913, he dedicated a few pages to meteors too,
praising William Denning (considered the father of modern meteor astronomy)
and presenting the main meteor showers.

Between 1910 and 1918 (when he died), Victor Anestin was permanently
a special guest in the private observatory opened by Admiral Vasile Urseanu,
in 1910, where Romanian sky lovers worked and talked
about comets, meteors and astronomy.
After Vasile Urseanu’s death, his observatory became
the Municipal Observatory in Bucharest.
In its patrimony was obviously found the collection of
Victor Anestin’s astronomical magazine Orion, edited between 1907 and 1912,
and hosting the oldest Romanian scientific meteor observations known till today.

3. About Harald Alexandrescu

Unfortunately, the 95 years jubilee of this observatory is a tragic one,
because its last coordinator, Dr. Harald Alexandrescu,
passed away in July 2005 at only 60 years,
but he remained as a marking personality in Romanian astronomy history.

Dr. Harald Alexandrescu published many articles and books on astronomy,
announced and analyzed the main astronomical phenomena
(including meteor showers) in Romanian central mass media,
organized in 1986 a remarkable expedition in Mountain Bucegi to study Comet Halley,
and in 1999 an original one, on the terrace of the Romanian Parliament,
to study the August total solar eclipse.
He was interviewed by Ciel et Espace in 1999,
and was a great friend of the meteor lovers,
inviting the Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy (SARM) to organize
astronomy meetings and astropoetry shows in the Bucharest Municipal Observatory,
and regularly participating at SARM’s Perseid events.
He also published an article, “Meteorites Fallen and Identified in Romania”,
in the Proceedings of the 2000 IMC in Pucioasa.

As Dr. Harald Alexandrescu was a man with a strong sense of humor
and a great lover of astronomical poetry too,
he used to say:

“Only a crazy man could put astropoetry in opposition with astronomy.”

I shall end by dedicating to him my following “tipuritura”
(the shortest Romanian poetic form) with a special title:


Dear Harald, for us you are
Certainly a climbing star!

Dr. Harald Alexandrescu during a speech
at “Admiral Vasile Urseanu” Bucharest Municipal Observatory
Photo: Calin Niculae

ADG’s additional note:
SARM dedicated an Astropoetic Tribute to Dr. Harald Alexandrescu,
which was published in the American web magazine Astropoetica, in Spring 2006



-by Andrei Dorian Gheorghe and Alastair McBeath (Vice-President
of the International Meteor Organization)-

(first published in Proceedings of the International Meteor Conference - Roden,
The Netherlands, 14-17 September 2006,
International Meteor Organization 2007)

1. Introduction

Continuing our occasional examination of comet-meteor-meteorite connections
in relatively modern Romanian poetry (such could not exist in earlier poetry,
as the poetic understanding of these things must necessarily follow the scientific),
we present samples from three authors.

2. Alexandru Macedonski

First is Alexandru Macedonski (1854-1920), an important Romanian poet,
especially famous for his `Nights' poetic series.
Macedonski also published poems in France, and loved the sky,
being a member of Camille Flammarion's French Astronomical Society.
We have chosen three samples from his works
(all of them first published in the latter part of the 19th century),
extracted from a larger selection of astronomically-slanted lines by Macedonski
in a chapter dedicated to him by Prof. Al. Dima, in his book
‘Cosmic Vision in Romanian Poetry’ (Junimea Publishing House, Iasi, 1982).

Starting off with an apparently cometary comparison
(given that comets, having such very elliptical orbits in general,
have a distinctive perihelion passage),
two famous lines from his poem `Perihelion':

Oh! Leave any soul to its perihelion,
Let it be happy when it loses the Earth!

which may also echo the idea of comets as representing human souls,
as we have touched on before elsewhere in the Meteor Beliefs Project,
such as with the comet seen after Julius Caesar's death in 44~BC.

In another poem, `Excelsior' (first published in 1895),
Macedonski pays homage to the sky,
suggesting the existence of cosmic dust among the celestial lights:

From astral worlds,
The surrounding magic
Includes in its splendour
The crying valleys.
Under golden powders,
Under stars, shining flowers,
What are the problems
Which could provoke disastrous destinies?
Oh, sky! Nature!
Oh, God, blue mystery!
You have climbed me over catastrophe,
Over curse and hatred.

The comet-meteor connection becomes more explicit in his poem `Harp':

My harp sings for me to fly to other spheres,
To leave the ephemeral pleasures,
To climb over the white clouds,
To go with tears of stars to the ether,
To meet rebellious comets on my way...

3. Gabriel Donna

The second author we chose is Gabriel Donna,
a Romanian poet and amateur astronomer,
who in 1902 published ‘Sonnets of Urania’ in Bucharest,
and was a leading member of the first Romanian Astronomical Society
(founded by Victor Anestin in 1908).
His 1902 sonnet entitled `The Sky's Dead Beings'
(which we found as republished in 1908 in the astronomical magazine ‘Orion’,
also edited by Victor Anestin)
begins with the general effect provoked by a comet's passing:

Often some comet appears in the constellations,
Eclipsing even the moon,
And she transports human admiration to other skies,
Together with her pearly hair.

The author is exaggerating rather in suggesting that comets
could often outshine the Moon, but only for poetic effect,
and is clearly intending something rather more impressive than the typical dim,
misty smudge that most comets show.

Donna continues, seeming to refer to a periodic comet,
and perhaps one more typically unimpressive visually:

But when she comes back from the depths of night to the sun again,
She seems to fly without her divine glory,
A prophetic ghost shaking in the light
The intense cold she brings from the black remoteness.

The next stanza includes a reference to the astronomical connection
between a comet and its meteors:

Then we wait her for so long!
Is she smashed in her running, seeding
Falling stars on her immense orbit?

The closing stanza is philosophical:

Or, is she carried by her mission into that chaos,
Where the sun's appeal does not penetrate,
Chained by peace and the abyss?

4. Tudor Arghezi

Our third author is one of the greatest personalities in Romanian literature,
Tudor Arghezi (1880-1967),
who wrote poetry, drama, prose-poems, a fantasy novel,
and in 1966 was awarded the Herder Prize in Austria.
This time, the sample
(which we found republished in the October 2004 astronomical supplement of
‘Timotei Cipariu’ Greek-Catholic High School in Bucharest,
edited by Erika Lucia Suhay)
lowers from the infinite to the meteor-meteorite connection,
in his youthful poem `Evening Prayer':

Infinite! Infinite!
Collect your canopies
In a prolonged bluster,
And stick like an arrow
Into my withered forehead,
Into my crazy chest.

The arrow from the cosmos signifies a meteor, as we shall see further,
finding a meteor-meteorite connection:

Symbolic Infinite!
Concentrate yourself into a flake
And spread yourself in me,
For I to fall like an aerolite
Escaped from the circuit.

The author also glorifies the Universe, and creates an allusion to cosmic dust,
or even the comets' particles:

Demonic Infinite!
Descend in me
As mysteries descend into a hermitage,
In which sounds stretch
From a cupola to the zenith (...)
With you I have the wish
To be recreated and erased,
In my glory of a dust milligram
Blown on the Universe.

Valentin Grigore (as Sun) and Andrei Dorian Gheorghe (as a comet
which throws meteors) performing the essay above
at the International Meteor Conference - Roden (Holland) 2006
Photo: Jos Nijland (Holland)


Finally, we should indicate a link to
still newer poetic comet-meteor-meteorite connections,
in SARM's Romanian Comet Contemporary Poetry,

Design: Florin Stancu
© 2008 SARM
(Romanian Society for Meteors and Astronomy)