Credit by: Giotto

I cant forget the year of 1997. It was a summer, hot and humid and I was sitting on the half done roof, with my parents. They enjoyed the glass of old, good iced white wine and I had my orange juice. It was so simple evening but extraordinary, the people who I love have been just by my side and the stars…I thought I can touch them, take them with me in my dreams. The stars have smiling at me but there has been something over there, that has impressed me even more, the Hale-Bopp comet, one of the most viewed comet in the history. As the member of Astronomy club, I had a job to follow that space friend and to collect remarks, observation and ideas. Back at that time, I was somehow sure that I will be professor of Astrophysics. Still have no idea why that direction didn’t work for me but the love for astronomy and the secrets of galaxy never stop to amaze me. Learning about Hale-Bopp comet, I stepped into the all stories about Halley´s comet and that beauty visited our Earth last time in 1986, so it is expected to see it again in 2061. Nevertheless, the destiny of comets is intriguing and you never know where they are, or at least, where they are really.

It is said for Halley´s comet that is one of the most famous comets in the history of astronomy. That is a periodic comet which means it comes back to our planet, every 75 years. The real name is 1P/Halley and it is based on the name of English astronomer Edmond Halley, who reported about the comet that was approaching the Earth in 1531, 1607 and 1682. According to his research, that was the same comet that is simply coming back.

The ancient perspective of the civilisation has linked the rise of the comets with bad events around the globe. The people used to believe that occurring of the comets is some kind of terrible omen and usually have been followed by curious cases. The above mentioned scientist in his study “Synopsis Astronomia Cometicae” tried to offer logical solutions for those interstellar travellers. His observations has been grounded on the Sir Isaac Newton’s gravitational theories and he came out with the brave statements that one comet is there every 76 years, predicting that will pop in again in 1758 or 1759. Unfortunately, Sir Halley passed away in 1742 and never experienced the return of his comet in 1758 and also not the success of his science. One article published on History briefly gives the following explanation about the Halley´s comet existence in the beginning of our heritage:” Scientists now believe that comet 1P/Halley, as it is formally known, has been zipping through the solar system for as many as 200,000 years. Edmond Halley only identified a handful of occurrences of his comet, but other scholars have plotted its earlier appearances and uncovered historical references dating back to the ancient world. In a 2010 paper in the Journal of Cosmology, researchers Daniel W. Graham and Eric Hintz suggested that one of the earliest known sightings of Halley’s comet may have occurred around 466 B.C. in the skies over Greece. Ancient accounts of the incident mostly center on a wagon-sized meteorite that landed in the Hellespont, but they note that the strike was accompanied by a huge fiery body that was visible in the sky for 75 days. According to Graham and Hintz, the timetable matches up almost perfectly with Halley’s comet’s projected appearance in the fifth century B.C.” There are many records of the historians that this celestial visitor has been with us for a longer time, as we even think. Flavius Josephus, the antic researcher, described this comet as the “star resembling a sword ” which was a symbol of the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans. Each era has its own battle with the bad destiny, wrong moments and failed hopes but almost always, the mysterious space traveler has been somewhere around, witnessing the tragedy of human race.

Finally, with the expansion of science, the people start to see comets through the rational prism. However, there have been still primitive studies for bringing panic as the one from 1910, when French astronomer Camille Flammarion had warned that cyanogen gas in its tail could wipe off the life on our Planet. This information caused that some people went crazy, selling their homes and organising bunkers for the doomsday.

Credit by: Forbes

Halley´s comet in 1986 has been seen through the better technology and more advanced approach from the astrophysics. The mankind made to develop great telescopes so there have been available first images in details of this space queen and we could have seen that its fiery body consists of dust and ice but there are still many secrets about it and other comets. Personally, I find thrilling to follow the traces of the comets with available tools. The astronomers even categorised some comets into the Halley family comets ( HFC) since they might share the same orbital attributes but there are ongoing arguments about it.

For the next time, in 2061, we will have more sophisticated and digitalised assets but less common sense and intelligence if the regression of the human race is to be continued with this trend. It is not all so pessimistic because we can still enjoy the beauty of this space dancer, through its remnants every single year. The Orionid meteor shower is spawned by Halley´s fragments and it occurs usually in October but sometimes also shower in May, so called Eta Aquarids. The next visit will be even more glorious because the comet will be on the same side of the sun as Earth and will be brighter than in 1986.

One of the fascinating facts about this comet is that it is creating its own atmosphere that could be as much as 100,000 km across, sublimating ices, consisted of water, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. The solar wind is blowing away that impressive atmosphere, designing alluring tail, up to 10 million km. Through the all its orbital lives, it lost about 80-90% of its original mass, so there are some ideas that it might be split up into two pieces, completely evaporated or expelled from the solar system and sent into the space dust.

The time will tell what is written in the book of Halley´s comet destiny. At the moment, it is exploring constellation Hydra, obtaining aphelion point. If you are interested in following its steps, visit the live tracker: https://theskylive.com/halley-tracker

I know it is out there, being free and wild in the universe of unlimited opportunities. One day, it will find again its way home, wondering why people didn’t save the Mother Earth.


  1. What a beautifully-written article, Sarah ! Thank you for this educational article !

    I’ve always been fascinated by comets and outer space. I’ve always felt that in outer space lies the secret of life and existence !

    As a child, I would stare at the stars, imagining life over there ! It felt so dreamy and I was a dreamer, a dreamer of a better world and a better tomorrow !


  2. Sarah’s inspiring and informative article reminded me of the ongoing debate associated with theories of the origin of Halley’s Comet…

    There are those astrophysicists who believe the comet first emerged in The Kuiper Belt (i.e. asteroids, etc., between Neptune and Pluto) and others who discern it as deriving from The Oort Cloud (i.e. massive ring of ice-covered asteroids, etc., orbiting outside The Solar System in Interstellar Space).

    Physics dictates that the orbit of the type of comet that Halley’s Comet is determines that it is subject to the gravitational energy of the gas giant planets (i.e. Jupiter and Saturn). The 200,000 year-plus orbit trajectory of Halley’s Comet suggests it originated in The Oort Cloud; although, precise dating is impossible without radioactive isotope data.

    Also, only 76 comets the same type as Halley’s Comet have been documented in The Solar System, whereas 520 have been identified to have derived from The Kuiper Belt and the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars. So, this suggests Halley’s Comet came from The Oort Cloud.

    In 1986, Soviet and Western European space agencies co-operated and were able to document the surface structure, dynamics and composition of Halley’s Comet. Its volatile compounds (e.g. H2O, CO and CO2) became vapour and then froze in solid form; resulting in the ‘atmosphere’ that is c. 100,000 km across. The gaseous molecules absorb solar light, enhance its radiation, which results in fluorescence, as dust particles scatter ejected solar radiation. It is the solar wind that causes the charged particles (e.g. ions) to form a long tail, which can be disconnected when solar wind fluctuations occur.

    The scientific investigations of 1986 found that Halley’s Comet is an admixture of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen compounds; an admixture common in asteroids, etc., documented in the outer reaches of The Solar System. Again, supporting the origin theory of The Oort Cloud.

    Comets in The Solar System form from the infusion (i.e. via pressure of gravity) of dust particles coated with frozen gases and ice that first emerged from the proto-planetary disc of The Solar System, c. 4.5 billion years ago.

    Whatever the origin of Halley’s Comet, it continues to fascinate humans…


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !