Halley’s Comet has embarked on its return journey towards Earth in a 38-year journey, reigniting excitement and anticipation for its next awe-inspiring appearance in our skies.

Halley’s Comet was predicted to reach its farthest point from the sun on Dec. 9, beginning a 38-year journey toward Earth that culminates in 2061.

This view of Comet Halley’s nucleus was obtained by the Giotto spacecraft as it passed within 600 km of the comet nucleus on March 13, 1986. (Image credit: ESA/MPAe Lindau)

After zooming away from Earth for nearly 40 years, Halley’s Comet has finally turned tail and started heading back our way — setting the stage for a spectacular close-up in 2061.

On Saturday, Dec. 9, the famous comet was predicted to reach its farthest point from the sun, also known as its aphelion, at a distance of about 35 astronomical units (AU) — or about 35 times the distance between Earth and the sun, according to NASA. That puts the comet well beyond the orbit of Neptune, and nearly in the front yard of Pluto, which orbits at about 39 AU.

In a sense, this is the midway point of Halley’s routine, 76-year orbit of the sun. For the last 38 years or so, the comet has moved millions of miles farther away from us every day; now, it will spend the next 38 years moving closer.

Halley’s last close approach of the sun (or its perihelion) was on Feb. 9, 1986, when it swooped to within 54.6 million miles (87.8 million km) of the sun, according to NASA; that’s about 0.58 AU from the our home star, or just interior to the orbit of Venus. Astronomers haven’t seen the comet at all since 2003, after which it became too small and dim to see.

Comets are balls of ice and dust that orbit the sun. These celestial objects are best known for their “tails,” which form when solar radiation vaporizes ice particles in the comet’s body, causing gas and dust to stream behind it.

Halley’s Comet was the first comet predicted to return to Earth’s skies. Astronomer Edmond Halley observed the comet in 1682 without knowing exactly what it was — he first dubbed it a “hairy star,” according to skywatching news site EarthSky.

Halley compared his observations to similar sightings reported in 1531 and 1607, and he hypothesized that all three sightings were repeat appearances of the same object. Halley predicted the object would appear again in 1758 — and so it did. Halley, who died in 1742, never got to confirm his predictions, although future scholars eventually named the comet in his honor.

Halley’s Comet makes its next close approach to the sun on July 28, 2061. Until then, you can experience the “hairy star’s” shimmering legacy twice a year, during two meteor showers associated with icy debris left behind by the comet on prior trips across Earth’s orbit. The Delta Aquariid meteor shower in May and the Orionid meteor shower in October both occur when old debris from Halley’s Comet falls through Earth’s atmosphere, burning up as “shooting stars.”


Related Posts

ASKAP’s Stunning Find: Unveiling Rare and Beautiful Polar Ring Galaxies, A Spectacular Discovery in the Cosmic Realm

Astronomers have revealed the discovery of two potential polar ring galaxies, NGC 4632 and NGC 6156. In a study published yesterday in the Monthly Notices of the…

Orion Nebula Unveils Peril: James Webb Telescope Discovers Stellar Winds Eroding Planet-Forming Material, Threatening Young Star’s Future

A group of extremely bright stars may be slowly reshaping the Orion Nebula and stopping one of their neighbors from forming planets, new James Webb Space Telescope…

Stunning Image Captures Icy Exoplanets Colliding, Unleashing Enormous Dust Cloud 1,800 Light-Years Away

This incredible image depicts the moment two icy exoplanets careered into each other 1,800 light-years away in a cosmic crash that was only spotted by chance. The…

Galactic Marvel: Unveiling the Colossal 16.3 Million Light-Year Giant, Largest Galaxy Ever Found, Perplexing Astronomical Community

Scientists have found the biggest galaxy ever! Situated about 3 billion light -years away, “Alcyoneus” is a giant radio galaxy that spreads over 16.3 million light-years (5…

NASA’s Eerie Discovery: ‘Skull-Shaped’ Star Cluster Unveiled in the Enigmatic Beauty of the Rosette Nebula

This star-studded picture initially seems like a skull, but it’s actually a portion of the Rosette Nebula. The darker region of Rosette is a nursery for newly…

Incredible Video: Mesmerizing Dance of Giant Plasma Loop Above Sun Unveils Spectacular Celestial Display of Dynamic Stellar Activity

The loop-like structure is taller than 10 Earths stacked on top of each other. Astrophotographer Miguel Claro captured this amazing shot of a solar prominence in February…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *