Astronomical Society of Edinburgh
Journal 39

James Melvill Sees a Great Fireball

Remember Rev James Melvill (1554-1614) who eloquently described the total eclipse of the sun in 1598? (See ASE Journal 25, March 1991). He saw a number of other phenomena, and I hope to tell you of some of them in later issues.

"No further that yeir [1604] bot of a strang meteor, quhilk wes hard and sein in the aire, the seventh day of December. About ane houre befoir the sone rose, the moone schyneing cleir tuo dayis befoir the chainge, in ane calme and pleasant morneing, there wes at ane instant sein gryt inflamatiounes of fyre-flauchtis [lightning? aurora?] in the Eisterne hemisphere, and suddentlie thaireftir thair wes hard a gryt crack, as of a gryt cannoun, and sensibilie markit a gryt glob or bullat, fyrrie-cullorit, with a mychtie quhissilling noyse, flieing from the north-eist to the south-west, quhilk left behind it a blew traine and draught in the air, most lyk ane serpent in mony faulds and linkit wimples; the head quhairof breathing out flames and smooke, as it wald directlie invaid the moone, and swallowit hir up ...... the crack wes hard of all, aiseweill within as without the house, ...... Heir was a subject for Poyetis and Prophettis to play upoun, as wes also the strange comett so much discoursit upoun and written on, togidder with the starr that appeirit and cleirly schynit aboune Edinbruche, hard on by the sonne, at ten hours, elevin hours, and at twelve and ane of the clock, in the middel day; prognosticatting, undoutidlie, strang alteratiounes and changes in the world, namely under our climat.

Autobiography and Diary of Mr James Melvill, Wodrow Society, Edinburgh, 1842, p569

Dave Gavine