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An Introduction to Halley’s Comet

In all the comets of the world, Halley’s Comet is one of the most recognizable of them all. Why? For starters, it is known for its high level of visibility. In this article, you will learn more about this infamous comet, including information on the people who played an important role in bringing Halley’s existence to light.

What is a Comet?

In the Solar System, there is an entity called a comet, which orbits the Sun and when positioned close enough, it can produce quite a sight for spectators on Earth. A comet is known to display what is known as a ‘visible coma,’ which sometimes creates the appearance of a tail. The center of a comet is made up of a collection of ice, dust, and small rock particles. Depending on its size, a comet can stretch from a couple of kilometers to tens of kilometers.

Besides being one of the most visible comets that humans have come in contact with, Halley’s Comet also possesses a relatively short orbital period, which allows the comet to reveal itself more often than others. Humans have been catching sight of Halley for more than 2,000 years. So, who has the honor of being known as the person that discovered this important traveler of the sky?

Who Discovered Halley’s Comet?

People during ancient days have seen Halley’s Comet decorating the sky, but who gets credit for discovering the comet? Let’s take a look at who the comet is named after , Edmond Halley. Using Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion, the British astronomer made a prediction in 1705. After first recognizing the comet’s behavior and calculating its orbit, he made the assertion that the comet, which had made an appearance in 1531, 1607 and 1682 , would once again become visible in 1758.

The first recorded sighting of Halley is mentioned within the pages of the Chinese ‘Records of the Grand Historian , marked as appearing in 240 BC. Another sighting of significance took place in 1066, when the English viewed Halley in the sky and believed that it was an omen associated with the Battle of Hastings. When the first photos of the comet were finally taken, it caused quite a stir. Some people felt they were in danger of becoming poisoned if the Earth passed through the tail of the comet.

Edmond Halley is often given the credit of discovering Halley’s Comet, but according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, they lay the claim on Johann Georg Palitzsch. Halley did indeed spot the comet and dub it a ‘periodic’ comet, and calculated the next time it would make a guest appearance, but 16 years before his accomplishment, another person observed the comet. Palitzsch viewed the comet while it was moving past the Earth in 1758. NASA acknowledges the German farmer and amateur astronomer’s observation, which took place on Christmas Day.