Royal Society Publishing


The history of Halley's Comet can be approached in three ways. First we can start with the origin of the comet and follow it through its sojourn in the Oort cloud, its transition from a long period orbit into a relatively short-period orbit until we finally arrive at its present position as a typical middle-aged comet with a large associated meteoroid stream. Secondly we can retreat from four and a half thousand million years of history to a mere two thousand years and we can start our history with the first known record made of Halley's Comet by mankind. In our third approach we can wait until the comet actually received its name, a christening for which we must thank French mathematical astronomers, and then we can chart its highlights as the first periodic comet, the first predicted cometary return and more recently as the spur to considerable scientific endeavour and government spending. This paper will review all three approaches.

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