Monday, November 9, 2015

Halley’s Comet - 1910



Halley’s Comet in Ohio County


From the Hartford Herald, Issue of May 18, 1910:

Halley’s Comet is due today.  Look for it over in the east.  Passes us and sun.  Hereafter, will be seen of evenings, and then gradually fading away.  If this evening is clear it will be of great interest and importance to look for illumination of the sky.

From the Hartford Herald, Issue of May 26, 1910:

THE COMET CAME—WAS NO COLLISON.  EARTH PASSED THROUGH TAIL WITHOUT A JAR.  SUN SPOTS THE ONLY SIGN.  WILL BE SEEN OF EVENINGS FOR A WHILE, THEN GONE
FOR ANOTHER 75 YEARS.

The comet came, the comet went, and this old earth is no worse and no better and, thus far, very little wiser.  There was no collision as the superstitious and the ignorant feared, and now that the comet is headed away from us, there will be no recurrence of the manifestations of terror that were recorded from all parts of the country and of the world. 

The earth did pass through the tail of the comet, and simultaneously brilliant auroral displays were seen from Williams Bay, Wisconsin, Milwaukee and elsewhere, but the majority of astronomers were not willing to concede that the streamers in the heavens were consequent upon the presence of cometic matter in our atmosphere. 

Comet parties were held everywhere – in the streets, on roof tops, in gardens – but for all that was visible to the naked eye, the tail of the comet was indeed “the veriest approach to nothing set in the midst of the night.”

Various internet descriptive notes about the comet:

In 1910 when Earth was due to pass through the tail of Halley’s comet, there was great anticipation of its arrival.  It created quite a stir because the comet’s unusually close approach was seen as a sign of impending doom, a notion the  press did nothing to dispel as rumors flew across the country.

Most reporters of the day turned to astronomers to get the facts straight, but the yellow press chose to pursue the story in more fanciful ways, helping to fuel the fears of the impressionable that the end of the world was nigh. Despite some published reports leading up to the event, the comet’s tail did not contain poisonous gases, and there was never any danger of a celestial collision, either.

Edmond Halley, astronomer, was the first to determine its orbit and accurately predict its return to the Earth’s night sky. Thus, the comet was named for him.  Although Halley died 16 years before his prediction could be tested, the comet appeared on Christmas night 1758, right on schedule. It’s been Halley’s comet ever since, appearing at regular 74- to 79-year intervals.

Thanks to expansive newspaper coverage everywhere, the 1910 pass of Earth was especially close and, eagerly anticipated by the general public. In fact, Earth’s orbit carried it through the end of the comet’s 24-million-mile-long tail for six hours on May 19.

When will Halley's comet return?

Halley's comet will next appear in the night sky in the year 2062. It orbits the sun every 75-76 years, so this is the time between appearances. Halley's comet was recorded by Edmund Halley in 1682. It was seen again in 1758, 1835, 1910, and 1986.
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Submitted by Janice Brown

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