Past Sightings of Halley's Comet




Comet Halley    
Previous appearances of Halley's Comet have, at times, terrified the public. Its appearance in 1909 and 1910 was among them, after it was announced that Earth would pass through the comet's tail. To make matters worse, scientists announced that cyanogen had been found in the comet's tail. Although astronomers tried to convince the public that the poisonous cyanogen would not penetrate Earth atmosphere it didn't stop a run on gas masks and anti-cyanogen pills, or survivalists from preparing for the end of the world.
Mark Twain and Comet Halley    
Mark Twain, the pen name of Samuel Clemens, was born two weeks after the perihelion of Comet Halley. In his autobiography, in 1909, he wrote "I came in with Halley's Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it." Twain died on April 21, 1910 a day after its perihelion.
Comet Halley    
The most recent appearance of Comet Halley occurred in 1986. During this particular orbit through the inner solar system Russian and European spacecraft studied the comet up close and personal and even passed though the comet's tail.
Comet Halley    
Comet Halley's next appeance it be in 2061. It's perihelion (closest point to the Sun) will occur on July 28, 2061. We all better start eating and exercising if we're going to have a shot at seeing this one.


Although the orbit of Halley's Comet was not predicted until the 18th century by Edmond Halley, the comet has been a visitor to the inner solar system for thousands of years. Nobody is quite certain when it entered the inner solar system for the first time. That hasn't discouraged modern-day astrophysicists from attempting to rewind the clock on Comet Halley and detemine which recorded comet observations were indeed Halley's Comet. There are, of course, inherant problems in doing so. The further back in time we go, the less reliable the calculations are due to Comet Halley's occassional close encounters with planets and moons.


Due to these calculations, the earliest accepted recorded observation of Halley's Comet occurred in 240 BCE. During each subsequent 75 to 79 year orbit, Halley's Comet became a naked eye comet and was recorded by one or more cultures.


The following is a list of accepted historical observations of Comet Halley (1P / Halley). The date on which it was closest to the Sun appears in parenthesis.



  • 1P/−239 K1 (May 25, 240 BCE)
  • 1P/−163 U1 (November 12 164 BCE)
  • 1P/−86 Q1 ( August 6, 87 BCE)
  • 1P/−11 Q1 (October 10, 12 BCE)
  • 1P/66 B1 (January 25, 66 CE)
  • 1P/141 F1 (March 22, 141)
  • 1P/218 H1 (May 17, 218)
  • 1P/295 J1 (April 20, 295)
  • 1P/374 E1 (February 16, 374)
  • 1P/451 L1 (June 28, 451)
  • 1P/530 Q1 (September 27, 530)
  • 1P/607 H1 (March 15, 607)
  • 1P/684 R1 (October 2, 684)
  • 1P/760 K1 (May 20, 760)
  • 1P/837 F1 (February 28, 837)
  • 1P/912 J1 (July 18, 912)
  • 1P/989 N1 (September 5, 989)
  • 1P/1066 G1 (March 20, 1066)
  • 1P/1145 G1 (April 18, 1145)
  • 1P/1222 R1 (September 28, 1222)
  • 1P/1301 R1 (October 25, 1301)
  • 1P/1378 S1 (November 10, 1378)
  • 1P/1456 K1 (June 9, 1456)
  • 1P/1531 P1 (August 26, 1531)
  • 1P/1607 S1 (October 27, 1607)
  • 1P/1682 Q1 (September 15, 1682)
  • 1P/1758 Y1, 1759 I (March 13, 1759)
  • 1P/1835 P1, 1835 III (November 16, 1835)
  • 1P/1909 R1, 1910 II, 1909c (April 20, 1910)
  • 1P/1982 U1, 1986 III, 1982i (February 9 1986)


One of the more famous observations of Comet Halley occurred in 1066 CE. It was seen in the sky prior to the Battle of Hastings. In 1070 or 1071, WIlliam of Jumièges wrote "At that time a star [Halley's Comet] appeared in the northwest. Its three-forked tail stretched far into the southern sky remaining visible for fifteen days; and it was portended, as many said, a change in some kingdom."


The appearance of certain types of comets, like the position of planets, were viewed as astrological signs by several cultures including the English and Chinese.