Halley’s Comet


Halley’s Comet is a famous comet named after Edmund Halley. It orbits the Sun every 76 years. Its next visit will be in 2061.

Halley's Comet Picture


Halley’s Comet is named after the British scientist Edmund Halley (1652-1742). He predicted that the comet would return in 1758, which was 16 years after his death. It was the first time a comet’s arrival had been predicted.


Halley’ Comet was the first comet to be recognized as having a periodic orbit. Comet Halley is known as a periodic comet because the time it takes to orbit the Sun is less than 200 years. Halley’s comet is made of dust and ice.

Halley’s comet orbits the Sun every 76 years. Its orbit loops between Mercury and Venus and stretches out beyond Neptune. Halley’s Comet came close to Earth in 1986. Its next visit will be in 2061.


The Chinese described a visit of Halley’s comet as long ago as 240 BC. When Halley’s comet was seen in AD 837, Chinese astronomers wrote that its head was as bright as Planet Venus and its tail stretched right through the sky. King Harold of England saw the comet in 1066. When he was defeated by William the Conqueror a few months later, people interpreted the comet’s visit as an evil omen.

English astronomer Edmond Halley was the first to discover the reappearance of the Halley’s Comet. In 1705, he suggested in 1705 that a comet spotted 1682 was the same one that lit up the sky in both 1531 and 1607. He further predicted it would be return in 1758. When this last appearance did in fact come to pass, the comet was given Halley’s name.


In 1985 five spacecraft from Russia, Japan and the ESA (European Space Agency) were sent to rendezvous with Halley’s comet. ESA’s Giotto probe captured close-up colour pictures of Halley’s nucleus showing jets of solar-heated debris spewing into space. Just 14 seconds prior to its closest approach, Giotto was hit by a small piece of the comet which altered the spacecraft’s spin and permanently damaged the camera. Most of the instruments were unharmed, however and Giotto was able to make many scientific measurements as it passed within 600 km of the nucleus.

Meteor Showers

Halley’s comet produces two meteor showers per year: the Orionids in late October and Eta Aquarids which occurs in early May.

The meteor showers happens each year when Earth passes through the debris stream of Comet Halley and meteoroids hit the atmosphere at nearly 90,000 mph.

The Bayeux Tapestry and the Appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1066 A.D.

Bayeux Tapestry Halley's Comet PictureThe Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered cloth which explains the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England as well as the events of the invasion itself. It measures 50 cm by 70 m (20 inch wide by 230 foot long).

The Tapestry is annotated in Latin. The tapestry tells the story of the Norman conquest of England. The two combatants are Harold II Godwinson (Anglo-Saxon English) and William the Conqueror (Normans).

It is believed that William’s half-brother, Bishop Odo of Bayeux, commissioned the Tapestry sometime between 1070 and 1077.  The Tapestry features the 1066 appearance of Halley’s Comet which appeared in the sky. The Tapestry records, “Isti mirant stella”, that is, “They marvel at the ill-omened star”.

King Charles 

Cor Caroli is the brightest star in the Cannes Venatici constellation (which is actually a double star. It was given the name Cor Caroli (the Heart of Charles) by the astronomer Edmond Halley in honour of his royal patron, Charles II of England.

Did you know?

The most famous comet of all is Halley’s Comet. Other famous Comets include Hale-Bopp Comet.

Halley’s Comet was seen in about 12 BC, so some say it was the Bible’s Star of Bethlehem.


Comets and How to Observe Them (Astronomers’ Observing Guides)
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