The ices and dust that make up the comet's nucleus are among the oldest materials in the solar system, dating back to before the Sun and planets formed some 4. Halley's last apparition began in late and extended through June of It was studied by astronomers around the world and even was visited by spacecraft.
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Its next close "flyby" of Earth won't happen until July , when it will be well placed in the sky for observers. He was right—it showed up right on schedule.
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Comet Halley has a large icy nucleus, just as other comets do. As it nears the sun, it brightens up and can be seen for many months at a time. The first known sighting of this comet occurred in the year and was duly recorded by the Chinese.
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Some historians have found evidence that it was sighted even earlier, in the year BCE, by the ancient Greeks. One of the more interesting "recordings" of the comet came after the year when King Harold was overthrown by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.
The battle is depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, which chronicles those events and prominently displays the comet over the scene. In , on a return passage, Halley's Comet Pope Calixtus III determined it was an agent of the devil, and he attempted to excommunicate this naturally occurring phenomenon. Obviously, his misguided attempt to frame it as a religious issue failed, because the comet came back 76 years later.
He wasn't the only person of the time to misinterpret what the comet was. During the same apparition, while Turkish forces laid siege to Belgrade in today's Serbia , the comet was described as a fearsome celestial apparition "with a long tail like that of a dragon.
Halley's Comet: Visitor from the Depths of the Solar System
During the 19th and 20th centuries, the comet's appearance in our skies was greeted by scientists with great interest. By the time the late 20th century apparition was about to start, they had planned extensive observing campaigns. In and , amateur and professional astronomers worldwide united to observe it as it passed close by the Sun. Every 76 years, Halley's Comet makes an appearance in the night sky. Here are ten facts about Halley's Comet.
Halley's Comet is named after the astronomer Edmund Halley - Although the comet is named afer him, he didn't actually discover it. Instead, he believed that a comet that he observed in could be the same comet that had been observed in and He believed that comets actually orbit the Sun just like planets and that the comet he had seen would return in about 76 years later if it was to follow the same pattern. It returned in as he predicted. Although he had died by the time this happened, the comet became known as Halley's Comet.
Halley's Comet takes 75 to 76 years to complete an orbit around the Sun. Comets travel in elliptical orbits, usually going from a great distance away from the Sun hundreds of millions of miles to relatively close just a few million miles to it.
A Posthumous Christmas Present
As the get closer Sun, they begin glowing is the Sun burns off its particles. This makes them visible from Earth, and every 75 to 76 years, as Halley's Comet approaches the Sun, it becomes visible in the night sky, looking a bit like a smudged star. One Astronomical Unit is the approximate distance that Earth is away from the Sun, which is about million kilometres, or 93 millions miles. So 35 Astronomical Units is 35 times Earth's distance from the Sun.
This is almost as far away as Pluto is away from the Sun. The closest Halley's Comet gets from the Sun perihelion is 0.
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