The Wonder that is the Halley’s Comet

While astronomy remains an area of study best left to lovers of astronomy and professional astronomers, every so often, a phenomenal and fascinating astrological event such as the appearance of the Halley’s Comet, manages to unite novices and experts alike in a sense of wonder and amazement. Discovered by Edmond Halley, the infamous comet is observable from Earth every 75 years. Unlike most other comets that appear after long periods, some only become visible after hundreds or thousands of years, the Halley’s Comet is categorized as a periodical comet, which means its orbit occurs after less than 200 years. As such, those lucky to be alive in 2062 will get the opportunity to observe the once in a lifetime sighting of the astrological phenomenon. Sightings of the comet can be traced back to ancient times, where astronomers and spiritual leaders often associated its appearance in the earth’s vicinity with dreadful and sometimes a few positive omens. Fortunately, contemporary research and general knowledge have effectively tracked the predictable nature of the comet, proving that the comet does not have adverse effects on the atmosphere or any negative consequences on the health or spirituality of human beings. Essentially, the comet appears as a bright shining light; however, its surface is quite dark, consisting of accumulated particles and carbon matter. Light from the sun reflects off it, giving it the glow that holds people in awe. In the late 80s, anticipation for the comet’s sighting inspired an influx of branded comet merchandise on various goods such as stamps, school bags, t-shirts, and books. Today, while many contemplate on whether they will still be alive to witness the rare occurrence, astronomical research continues in order to determine whether Halley’s Comet will continue to make its regular appearance in the future years. Until 2062, human beings continue to wait eagerly. When Halley's Comet came by Earth in 1986, it was the first time we could send spacecraft up to look at it. That was a fortunate occurrence, as the comet ended up being underwhelming in observations from Earth. When the comet made its closest approach to the sun, it was on the opposite side of that star from the Earth – making it a faint and distant object, some 39 million miles away from Earth.
Several spacecraft successfully made the journey to the comet. This fleet of spaceships is sometimes dubbed the "Halley Armada." Two joint Soviet/French probes (Vega 1 and 2) flew nearby, with one of them capturing pictures of the heart or nucleus of the comet for the first time. The European Space Agency's Giotto got even closer to the nucleus, beaming back spectacular images of Earth. Japan sent two probes of its own (Sakigake and Suisei) that also obtained information on Halley. Astronomy began changing swiftly around the time of Shakespeare, however. Many astronomers of his time held that Earth was the center of the solar system, but Nicolaus Copernicus – who died about 20 years before Shakespeare's birth – published findings showing that the center was actually the sun. It took several generations for Copernicus' calculations to take hold in the astronomy community, but when they did, they provided a powerful model for how objects move around the solar system and the universe. The comet appeared in 1531, 1607 and 1682. Halley suggested the same comet could return to Earth in 1758. Halley did not live long enough to see its return – he died in 1742 – but his discovery inspired others to name the comet after him. On each successive journey to the inner solar system, astronomers on Earth turned their telescopes skyward to watch Halley's approach.