Comet's Tale: History/Exploration
DATE: 1680

Do comets return to Earth or only pass by once?  Well, one thing that will help answer this question is knowing if a comet circles around our Solar System, or just passes by in a straight path. The scientist Edmond Halley discovered that the comets of 1531, 1607, and 1682 were all the same comet (guess what it was named!) which was revolving around our Sun every 76 years.

Once people realized comets behaved in a regular way like the planets, they seemed much less frightening. This 1680 painting of a beautiful comet with a long, golden tale, reflects a more positive interest people began to have about comets. This comet was so bright it could be seen in the daytime, not just at night.

Watercolor of the daytime comet of 1680, with its 70-degree tail

Rotterdam, Atlas van Stolk

Be an astronomer: Can you find the year for the next time Comet Halley will appear?  Remember, Comet Halley has a 76 year period.  For example, if it was seen in 1531, the next time it would have been visible would have been: 1531 + 76 (years) = 1607 (keep adding 76 to figure out other years it was seen).  So, if Comet Halley was viewed in 1986, when is the next time it will be seen?  How old will you be when you see it?

1145 1300 1402 1587 1680 1858 1900 2000

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