Halley’s Comet: Facts About the Most Famous Comet in History

(ORDO NEWS) — Halley is a short period comet, which means that it approaches Earth about every 75 years. That is, the average person can easily see it once in a lifetime, and long-livers can even see it twice. Halley’s comet was last seen in 1986 and, according to experts, it should return in 2061.

Halley’s comet in the scientific community is called 1P / Halley, which was given to it in honor of the 17th-18th century English astronomer Edmond Halley, who studied the comet during its approach to the Earth in 1531, 1607 and 1682.

At first, the researcher believed that in each of these years three different comets flew past our planet, but then he realized that it was the same cosmic body orbiting the Sun.

Based on his observations, Halley predicted that the comet should return in 1758, but missed it by only a year – it approached the Earth in 1759, but Edmond Halley did not live to see this moment. However, the comet was given its name.

History of observations of Halley’s Comet

According to the European Space Agency, the first sighting of Halley’s comet took place in 239 BC. e. in China. However, historical modeling of Halley’s orbit indicates that the comet could be seen even earlier – in 466 BC. e, when she flew over Ancient Greece.

When the comet returned in 164 B.C. e., and then in 87 BC. BC, this event was probably captured in the Babylonian records now kept in the British Museum in London.

In addition, it is believed that on the famous fresco of Giotto “The Adoration of the Magi” in the background it is Halley’s comet that, according to religious beliefs, led the Magi to the newborn Jesus.

Halleys Comet Facts About the Most Famous Comet in History 2                                Giotto. Adoration of the Magi. 1303-1305 Fresco in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy

Before Edmond Halley suggested that all previously seen comets are the same cosmic body, medieval astronomers perceived each of Halley’s appearances as a separate event. Moreover, they were often associated with future changes or great catastrophes.

An interesting fact – the American writer Mark Twain once said that he was born in the year of the approach of Halley’s comet to the Earth (1835), and intends to go to another world with it. Surprisingly, it happened – the writer died in April 1910, a day after the next appearance of Halley in the sky.

Halley-like comets – what are they?

There is a group of comets called “Halley family comets” (HFCs) because they appear to have the same orbital characteristics – for example, they are just as strongly inclined to the orbit of the Earth and other planets in the solar system.

Halleys Comet Facts About the Most Famous Comet in History 3Halley’s Comet photographed on May 13, 1910 by a wide-angle camera at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona, USA

Some experts suggest that Halley-like comets could have formed in the Oort Cloud, a hypothetical spherical region of the solar system that is the source of long-period comets. There is also a hypothesis that such comets were formed from the Centaurs – a group of asteroids located between the orbits of Jupiter and Neptune.

Modern studies of Halley’s comet

In 1986, the most UNspectacular appearance of Halley’s comet in the entire history of observations took place – people could not see its approach at once for several reasons: during the passage of perihelion, the Earth and Halley’s comet were on opposite sides of the Sun, which did not allow observing the comet during the period of greatest brightness.

In addition, since the last approach of the comet in 1910, the illumination of the sky has increased greatly due to the spread of electricity.

Halleys Comet Facts About the Most Famous Comet in History 4                                                                                            Halley’s Comet, photographed by NASA in 1986

Nevertheless, in 1986, specialists managed to obtain very high-quality photographs of Halley’s comet – the devices that somehow took part in the shooting of the comet began to be called Halley’s Armada.

So two Soviet automatic interplanetary stations “Vega-1” and “Vega-2”, designed to observe Venus and Halley’s comet, were able to take photographs of the comet’s nucleus itself.

Halleys Comet Facts About the Most Famous Comet in History 5                    Photo taken by the Soviet station “Vega-2” during the approach to the comet at 8030 km in 1986

The robotic interplanetary station “Giotto”, owned by the European Space Agency, was also able to get close to Halley’s comet and send stunning photos to Earth.

Halleys Comet Facts About the Most Famous Comet in History 6The Giotto space probe, launched in 1985 on an Ariane 1 V14 launcher, passed by the hidden nucleus of Halley’s Comet in 1986

Japan also sent two of its own probes (Sakigake and Suisei), which received information about Halley.

Halley’s comet in 2061

When Halley’s Comet passes Earth in 2061, it will be on the same side of the Sun as Earth and much brighter than it was in 1986.


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