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Halley's Comet Essay

1162 words - 5 pages

Out of all the phenomena that occurs within our galaxy, comets are one of the most amazing. Being the most popular, it’s safe to say that when talking about these small bodies, Halley’s Comet comes to mind. Even though it only graces us with its presence about once every 75 years, Halley’s Comet continues to astonish us to this day.
Despite the fact that humans have been observing comets for centuries, we still don’t know all there is to know about them. The three main parts that make a comet are its tail, coma and nucleus. The tail, made of a narrow column of dust and gas, is its largest part and may extend 100 million kilometers across the inner solar system. The tail is only visible ...view middle of the document...

(Curran, 2011) Although, spectators on Earth are only able to view Halley once every 75 years or so, remnants of the famous comet are evident more frequently. Earth passes through the dust debris of Halley once in May and again in October during the meteor showers Eta-Aquarid and Orionid, respectively. (Arny & Schneider, 2014)
For the last 2,200 years, Halley’s Comet has been observed once every 75.3 years, but until recently, nobody knew what they were seeing. The earliest observation recorded was in the year 240 B.C. This sighting was recorded in the Chinese text Shih Chi. In this text, translated to “Records of the Grand Historian”, the comet was referred to as the “broom star”. Writings in other documents suggest that Halley might have been spotted earlier, but the text is too vague to know for sure. Now at home in the British Museum, Babylonian tablets show visits by Halley recorded in 164 B.C. and again in 87 B.C. In 12 B.C., the visit of the “sparkling star” was documented in the Chinese Han Shu or the Book of Han. Some people took the appearance of comets as a bad omen. On the other hand, some speculate that Halley’s Comet could be the actual star of Bethlehem. There were many other sightings of Halley’s Comet as the years passed. But three stood out to the man who changed everything. (Andrews, 2013)
Out of all the people who witnessed the bright comet over the course of a couple thousand years, only one person saw a connection. Edmond Halley was born in 1656 to a wealthy soap maker. In 1673, Halley started his education at Queen’s College in Oxford, England. He was drawn to astronomy due to his visits to the Royal Greenwich Observatory. Halley wanted to assemble a catalog of the stars in the Southern Hemisphere, so in 1676 left college without a degree and he sailed to the island of St. Helena in the South Atlantic. His star catalog that consisted of longitudes and latitudes of 341 stars was published in 1678. That same year he was elected into the Royal Society and the University of Oxford, along with the king’s intervention, gave him the M.A. degree. (Eggen, n.d.) In 1684, Halley began working with Isaac Newton and played...

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