Famous Comets: Halley & More

When it comes to famous comets, no one can resist Halley, which makes an appearance to those looking in the skies from Earth every 76 years. In this article, you will also encounter information regarding a couple other notable comets.

Swift-Tuttle (1992)

The first time that the Swift-Tuttle comet was sighted was in July of 1862, where Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle made the discovery of its existence. As the comet nears the Sun every 120 years, a trail of dust debris is left behind that leads to a fascinating display in July and August. As Earth passes through what is left of the dust tail, a clear night produces a spectacular meteor shower referred to as Perseid. The Swift-Tuttle has also gained a claim to fame, as some scientists believed that this item would one day experience a collision with Earth because of the closeness in distance of the two orbits. Since this prediction, more recent calculations have emerged, where scientists believe that a collision is no longer a possibility with millions upon millions of miles between the two.


January 30th, 1996: A beginner astronomer named Yuji Hyakutake (who resided in the southern part of Japan) is responsible for discovering the comet using a simple pair of binoculars. It was the springtime of that year, and Hyakutake had the pleasure of catching sight of a small, illuminated comet that possessed a nucleus of 1.6 to 3.2 km (or 1 to 2 miles). The comet flew close to the Earth and was the owner of one of the longest tails ever observed. When the Hubble Space Telescope took a closer look at the nucleus of the comet, they discovered that this was not the first time it had made contact with the inner Solar System. After astronomers calculated its orbit, they found that it actually appeared close to 8,000 years ago. Sadly, it will not come back into view for another whopping 14,000 years.


When it comes to famous comets, nothing beats Halley, which is known as one of the most recognizable in all history. The calculation of its orbit was done by a British astronomer by the name of Edmund Halley, who uncovered the orbit of comets viewed in 1531 and 1607 as the same – following an orbit that spans 76 years. However, Halley passed away in 1742 and never got a chance to see that his prediction would come true. The comet returned on Christmas Eve in 1758.

Another interesting fact about Halley’s Comet is that every time that it comes close to the Sun , the nucleus (which measures nine miles) relieves close to seven yards of rocks and ice into space. The debris later becomes the orbiting trail that falls to the Earth. When we catch sight of the remnants of the comet , it is referred to as the Orionids meteor shower. If you were wondering when the next time Comet Halley will come back to town , it makes another emergence to the inner Solar System in 2061.