There was a fine, clear view of Comet Holmes last night, which even Kent's rampant light pollution could not destroy. (Comet Holmes, in case you have been incommunicado somewhere very remote, like Crieff or Kugluktuk, is a normally mousy and retiring object which orbits the sun every seven years or so. In the last week, however, the comet has become about a million times brighter, and is now visible to the naked eye). It looks a bit like this:
Comet Holmes was first discovered by Sherlock Holmes in 1892. The events surrounding the discovery were reported in Dr John Watson's article in the Strand Magazine of December of that year.
About ten o' clock one evening, Holmes, who had slipped outside to ream his pipe, suddenly called to Watson in a tone of some distress. In Watson's words:
'I found Holmes standing on the seventeenth step, holding onto the railing and staring wild-eyed into the night sky.
"John," he cried, "For pity's sake, tell me that you see it too!"
Fearing that my friend had overindulged his habitual vice and damaged his eyesight, I replied, "I see nothing, Holmes, but if you say something is there, then something there must surely be."
Holmes clutched my arm and pointed above the trees in Regent's Park, in the general direction of Camden Town. And there, through the haze thrown up by the gas lights, I noticed a remarkable object in the constellation of Perseus. It was as bright as a star, but larger and hazy, like a carbide lamp seen through fog.
"I see it Holmes," I said.
"Thank Heavens," he breathed. "I could not bear it. The exactitude of my senses, Watson, the exactitude is what sets me apart."
Thus it was that Holmes, who professes disinterest in all things astronomical - who once, indeed, averred that the sun revolved around the earth, and that, even if it were not so, this was irrelevant to his deductive powers and therefore a matter of complete indifference to him - thus it was that Holmes discovered the comet that now bears his name.'