Hurtling through space at a speed of 254,000 mph, plowing through the celestial void on its long, lonely, looping mission of futility, lies the quaint Idaho town on the planet earth called Hailey, from which a celebrated chunk of space ice might have taken its name, if it weren’t for some pesky things called correct spelling, facts and the correct use of plural possessives.
An Astronomical Comedy of Synapses
Officially designated as 1P/Halley, because astronomers are nerds, Halley’s Comet (correct pronunciation: “Not The Way You Are Probably Doing It”) last appeared in 1986, the same year that Mark Twain would have died if he had lived another 76 years.Officially designated as 1P/Halley, because astronomers are nerds, Halley’s Comet (correct pronunciation: “Not The Way You Are Probably Doing It”) last appeared in 1986, the same year that Mark Twain would have died if he had lived another 76 years. The appearance of the famous flaming rock, which is also a good band name, has been recorded as far back as 240 BPCDWNSTWCOOACA (Before Political Correctness Demanded We Never Say The Word ‘Christ’ Outside Of A Church Again), when Chinese astronomers said, “Look at that famous flaming rock!”, and Babylonian scientists said, “Yes, and wouldn’t that also make an excellent band name!”, then scribbled it down in their clay tablets. It wasn’t until 1705 that an English astronomer named Edmond (Spoiler Alert!) Halley, using laws that his buddy Isaac Newton cooked up to calculate the gravitational effects of Jupiter and Saturn on cometary orbits predicted that this particular comet would return in 1758 and wipe out all of mankind by infecting it with a deadly comet virus. He was partially right, obviously, as the comet did return that year, but the virus didn’t wipe us out; it apparently only just made us crave reality TV shows. Halley first proposed his theory in his Latin romantic comedy “Astronomiae Cometicae Synopsis” (“An Astronomical Comedy of Synapses”). In it, he observed that between the years 1337 to 1698 a variety of occurrences of comet-like objects appeared, including 24 comets that were visible to the naked eye, and three which could only be viewed when fully clothed. He theorized that many of these occurrences were actually the same comet, and at the comet’s return in 1758 it was dubbed by astronomers “Edmond’s Comet,” which they changed the following year to “Halley’s Comet,” because there was another astronomer named Edmond that nobody liked because he always put shoe polish on the eyepiece of their telescopes.
Giotto, Kelvin and the Canadians
In 1985, the European Space Agency spacecraft “Giotto” was launched in order to more closely inspect the comet to determine if, in fact, it was sent here by an alien race of hideous bug-like creatures in order to enslave our women as we were told by the government would happen if we didn’t switch to the metric system. Fortunately, that was not the case, but the probe was able to determine that the comet is composed mostly of dusty, non-volatile materials, such as old Sunday school teachers and those cheap charcoal briquets that never light unless you douse them with a can of gas. The surface temperature was determined to range from 170 Kelvin (essentially 1 billion degrees below zero Fahrenheit, or -170 Centigrade if you’re into that sort of thing) to 220 Kelvin (still really, really, really, super cold), making it too cold even for Canadians to want to put an ice fishing cabin on.
Halley’s Comet facts
- As Halley’s comet approaches the sun, it expels jets of sublimating gas from its surface, for which it never apologizes, then, as it leaves, it comments loudly, “whoever smelt it, dealt it.”
- Some studies suggest that Halley will eventually evaporate, or fracture in two, within the next few tens of thousands of years, or that it will be ejected from the Solar System within a few hundred thousand years, or that it will suddenly and without warning strike the earth and obliterate it; no one really knows for sure.
- The comet is 10 miles long, 5 miles wide, 5 miles tall, and shaped like a peanut, although it is inedible as far as we know, as if it were to impact the earth it would definitely destroy all peanut-tasting life forms on the planet before we could find out.
- The next perihelion of Halley’s Comet will occur on July 28, 2061, so we suggest you start stocking up now on your perihelion creams, salves, and ointments as a precaution.
- The famous writer Mark Twain said in 1909, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.” His words came to pass the following year, when he and Halley’s comet dined at the Gotham Bar and Grill on East 12th Street in New York City, where Twain had a Roasted Red And Yellow Beet Salad while the comet ordered the Maine Lobster with chanterelle mushrooms.
- Although the blazing tail of the comet is noticeable for millions of miles, the comet’s actual surface is not bright at all, having possibly only ever passed the Third Grade.