Sure, we’ve all now heard about the mega comet heading into the solar system, but even C/2014 UN271 (Bernardinelli-Bernstein) is going to have to go a long way to reach the iconic status of 1P/Halley.
Halley’s Comet has the most well-known comet. It is nine miles wide by five miles (15 km by 8km) and may not be as big as the mega-comet’s estimated size of 80 miles/128km. However, it is still very significant. It is the only naked-eye comet that can be seen twice in a single lifetime.
It suddenly in the news. It is because of the last time it was in the solar system.
When Halley’s comet was last viewed
It is classified as a comet of short duration. It was first seen in the inner solar systems in 1986, and before that in 1910. It has been observed once every 75 years, since 240 BC. However, Edmund Halley, an English astronomer, discovered that the same bright object kept returning to the night skies in 1705.
Unfortunately, Halley did not get to see the comet that bore his name. He died 16 years prior to the 1758 appearance of the comet, which he had correctly predicted using historical observations.
When Halley’s comet will be coming back
When is Halley’s next visit to us? It won’t happen until 2061, when NASA’s new mission aimed at Uranus should be finished. However, it will likely be a better show than 1986’s because Earth will be closer the comet. It should therefore be brighter than Sirius, some believe.
The Uranus connection is ironic because on January 24, 1986–just as Halley’s Comet was last at its closest to the Sun–NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft conducted a flyby by Uranus for humanity’s only and first glimpse of the “Bull’s Eye”.
Right now, Halley’s comet is in the right place
Is it possible to find Halley’s Comet in the nightsky? It’s not physically visible, but it’s 35AU away (35 times the Sun Earth distance). This is about the distance between Earth and dwarf planet Pluto. But can you find it? It is currently located in the constellation Hydra but it is close to the bright star Procyon, which is in Canis Minor.
Procyon, the eighth brightest star of the northern hemisphere’s evening sky, can be found by looking at the southwest sky during the week after sunset. The “Winter Triangle”, consisting of three bright stars, Sirius, Betelgeuse, and Procyon, will be visible clearly.
Although the position of Halley’s comet seems to be very close to that of Procyon’s, it is actually much closer. Procyon lies 11.5 light years away.
Meteor showers Orionid and Eta Aqaurid
It is not present right now, so how can it be causing shooting stars in the night sky?
Each year, Earth passes through streams of particles that are left in the inner Solar System’s Solar System by Halley’s Comet since 1986.
The meteor shower Eta Aquariids lasts from April 19 to May 28. It peaks in May 5/6 every year. It is estimated to produce between 10-30 and 60 “shooting stars” per hour, depending on where you are located in the northern hemisphere.
It’s happening right as The Lyrids meteor shower is peaking.
The Orionids meteor Shower runs from October 2 to November 7. It peaks on October 21/22. Observers can expect to see approximately 20 “shooting stars”, an hour after midnight, during this peak.
What will happen to Halley’s comet?
Although it does return to the inner solar systems approximately every 75.3 years, this can be altered by Jupiter’s and Saturn’s gravity to alter its orbit.
Some believe that Halley’s Comet’s close approach to Jupiter and Venus will result in it being ejected completely from the Solar System… possibly to become an interstellar interloper, like Oumuamua. Others believe it could disappear within 25,000 years or collide with another object.
You can catch a shooting star from the most well-known comet in the solar system by going outside at midnight, especially around May 5/6. If you have the patience and a clear sky, you might just be able to see Halley’s comet perform.