It’s coming back, Halley’s Comet has started its journey back to Earth

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Halley's comet
Halley’s Comet began its return trajectory to the Sun on December 9.
Robert Duarte Robert Duarte Weathered Brazil 6 minutes

PUSH Halley’s comet it is one of the first astronomical objects we become aware of from birth. It is an event expected from generation to generation and is one of the most famous comets both among astronomers and the general population.

Halley’s comet is estimated to have a mean period of 76 years. There are variations due to the fact that this is an elliptical and not a spherical orbit, and also due to the gravitational influence of the planets Solar System. The shortest period occurred in the period from 1835 to 1910 with 74.42 years.

There are two important points in a comet’s orbit: aphelion and perihelion. The dots indicate the farthest point and the closest point to the Sun. On December 9, 2023, Halley’s Comet reached its aphelion and began its return trajectory toward the Sun and soon our planet..

History

Astronomer Edmond Halley studied comets using Newton’s theories of gravity. Interestingly, Halley was responsible for helping Isaac Newton publish his famous theory of universal gravitation. That’s why Halley sought help from Newton understand why bodies orbit the Sun.

Edmond Halley
Edmond Halley was the astronomer responsible for describing the trajectory of the comet that was named after him. Credit: Royal Museums Greenwich

The comets of 1531, 1607, and 1682 were originally thought to be three different comets. Halley he was responsible for realizing that it was the same object and was able to correctly predict that the comet would return in 1758. Because he was the first to understand its trajectory, the comet was named after Halley

Characteristics

The comet measures approximately 15 kilometers by 8 kilometers. Although the pictures show it clearly, Halley’s comet is one of the least visible comets known because it reflects sunlight very poorly.

Maximum distance traveled Halley’s comet is after the orbital distance, this distance is called aphelion, the farthest point from the Sun.

The average orbit of a comet is about 76 years, but may vary due to gravitational interactions with other cometary bodies. Solar Systemlike the planets themselves. In 1986, at perihelion, the closest point to the Sun, the comet reached a speed of 54.55 kilometers per second..

Comet formation and life

One hypothesis is that the comet should have formed in Oort cloud, a cloud of rock and ice that later finds itself in Pluto’s orbit. Many commits are expected here. The idea is that Halley was again a comet with a higher periodicity, but a sudden interference cleared the way for the thin solar system and worsened its current orbit.

It grants remission of a part of its body when it approaches the Sun. For a comet with a low periodicity such as Halley, it is possible that it will arrive quickly. I didn’t sleep until I saw the comet survey, and it was already in orbit on the 16th anniversary.

Transition from 1986

Many of those who witnessed Halley’s disappearance in 1986 seem to have negative memories of the moment. This was because the observation was very faint because the Earth and the comet were on opposite sides of the Sun. The distance greatly hindered sightings and left many people disappointed.

Halley's Comet 1986
Halley’s Comet from 1986. Credit: NASA

Despite this, it was of interest to astronomers using probes to obtain data from the comet. For example, the Soviet probes Vega 1 and Vega 2, which approached the comet. ESA also used the Giotto probe for this purpose, while NASA saw its launches canceled after the Challenger disaster in January 1986.

Next step

While the last one was disappointing, numerical simulations suggest that the next time Halley returns, it will be on the same side of Earth. This will happen in 2061 and will be much brighter than the transition in 1986.

It will have a size of -0.3, which is significantly better than the size of the last pass. By comparison, the planet Mars has a magnitude of -2. It is estimated that by 2134 the size of the comet will exceed the size of Mars. Now we just have to wait for the comet to make its return trip.



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