Comets: Marking Time for All of Us

The Holmes Comet recently appeared in the night sky, surprising astronomers with its unusual and unexpected intensity. That got me thinking about comets for the first time in a while. One of the most well-known comets is Halley’s Comet. It’s cyclical 76-year appearance has been recorded at least as far back as 240 BC. It last appeared in 1986 and will next appear in 2061. When it appeared in 1986, it was the least favorable viewing for earth observers in recorded history — it was barely visible to the naked eye.

I was in boarding school in 1986 and a member of my school’s proudly geeky “Astronomical Army.” We observed Halley’s Comet through the telescope in our permanent observatory atop the cross country hill. Even with our powerful scope and reasonably light pollution-free surroundings, the comet looked like little more than a blurry streak.

If I make it to 2061, I will be 92 years old when Halley’s next appears. I realized today just how old I’m getting when I thought to myself “Halley’s will appear in less than 54 years. That’s not that long.” Then I remembered that I’m now 38, not 16, and another 58 years will account for most if not all of my remaining days on earth. That’s something.

Still, when Halley’s comes round again, I hope to see it in the sky with my blurry, teary, cataracted 92-year old eyes and I hope that this time it will be brilliant.


1 thought on “Comets: Marking Time for All of Us

  1. As I was reading this, I was doing the math myself (I’ll be 86!) I can’t remember 1989, but I’m pretty sure I was wearing acid washed jeans. Hope it’s not a cloudy night! :-/

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