Halley’s Comet is a periodic comet, which became famous for “visiting the Earth” every 75 to 76 years. But what makes this comet so special? What happens when it passes Earth?
Halley’s Comet was discovered by astronomer Edmond Halley in 1696, who studied the reports of a comet approaching Earth in years 1531, 1607, and 1682. He concluded that these three comets were in fact the same that always returned to Earth, and predicted that the comet would return again in 1758. Halley did not live to see the comet’s return, but his discovery attributed his name to this celestial body.
The average duration of Halley’s comet year- meaning the year of the comet the time it takes to circle the Sun-is 75-76 Earth years . The last time the comet visited us was in 1986 , when the European space probe Giotto approached to take a look at its frozen core. And it will not happen again near Earth until the year 2062 .
Since its last sighting, Halley is continuing to move away from the Sun, and will reach its farthest point by the end of 2023. After that, it will begin to make its way back towards us. It will be next visible to us on 28th July 2061.
Famous and Periodic Comets Like Halley
Comets are spectacular sightings in the night sky. Although we see them as bright and highly reflective, it not always so. They are in fact very dark and reflect only 4% of the light hitting their surface. But the comets that come in contact with the earth’s surface are visible as bright streaks of light because of light produced due to friction. Halley is a periodic comet that shows itself after 76 years. Some other periodic comets are Swift-Tuttle and Encke. Also, comets orbit the sun in highly elliptical orbits. Because their orbits are so elliptical, they are visible only once every hundred years as they take 50 – 200 years to orbit the sun. Read more interesting facts about comets.