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Lubos Kohoutek
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Astronomer
    (January 29, 1935- )
    Born in Zabreh, Czech Republic
    Discovered 76 asteroids, five comets, and over 300 nebulae
    Wrote ‘Catalogue of Galactic Planetary Nebulae’ (1967)
    Best-known discovery was Comet Kohoutek (March 7, 1973)
    Comet Kohoutek was widely hyped as the ‘Comet of the Century’ only to be nowhere near as bright as predicted.
    He was the guest of honor on a ‘Comet Cruise’ on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth II in the Atlantic, but heavy cloud cover kept passengers from seeing the comet and rough seas left Kohoutek too seasick to deliver his planned lecture.
    In the wake of the comet, Kohoutek’s name became synonymous with spectacular disappointment.
    Ironically, two years later Comet West did put on a spectacular display but the press, having been burned by Comet Kohoutek, largely ignored it.
    After the Soviet Union crushed Czechoslovakia’s ‘Prague Spring’ (1968), he defected to West Germany.
    When he discovered Comet Kohoutek, it was the farthest distance from the Sun at which a comet had been discovered.
    Comet Kohoutek did brighten dramatically as it rounded the sun. Unfortunately, the only people in a good position to see it at that point were the crews of Skylab and Soyuz 13.
    In The Simpsons episode ‘Bart’s Comet,’ Principal Skinner says he failed to get a comet named after himself, but he ‘got back’ at its discoverers, ‘Principal Kohoutek … him and that little boy of his!.’

Credit: C. Fishel


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