Astronomy and Space
Comets and Meteorites
When will Halley’s Comet return?
Halley’s Comet returns about every 76 years. It was most recently seen in 1986 and is predicted to appear again in 2061, then in 2134. Every appearance of what is now known as Comet Halley has been noted by astronomers since the year 239 B.C.E.
The comet is named for Edmund Halley (1656–1742), England’s second Astronomer Royal. In 1682 he observed a bright comet and noted that it was moving in an orbit similar to comets seen in 1531 and 1607. He concluded that the three comets were actually one and the same and that the comet had an orbit of 76 years. In 1705 Halley published A Synopsis of the Astronomy of Comets, in which he predicted that the comet seen in 1531, 1607, and 1682 would return in 1758. On Christmas night, 1758, a German farmer and amateur astronomer named Johann Palitzsch spotted the comet in just the area of the sky that Halley had foretold.
Prior to Halley, comets appeared at irregular intervals and were often thought to be harbingers of disaster and signs of divine wrath. Halley proved that they are natural objects subject to the laws of gravity.