TechReturn of Halley's Comet: New predictions by scientists

Return of Halley's Comet: New predictions by scientists

Halley's comet/ illustrative picture
Halley's comet/ illustrative picture
Images source: © Licensor | Stocktrek

1:17 PM EST, December 9, 2023

On Friday, December 8, Halley's Comet commenced its return journey towards Earth. Scientists have calculated that the trip through our Solar System will take this famous comet another 38 years.

Halley's Comet follows an elliptical orbit, oscillating between close and far distances from the Sun over time.

Since February 9, 1986, when the comet achieved perihelion, its closest point to the Sun, it embarked on a far-reaching voyage into the vast cosmos.

Until recently, the comet was gradually moving further from the Sun. This trend continued until Friday evening, December 8, when scientists’ calculations suggested it had reached aphelion, the point in its orbit furthest from the Sun. This location is an expansive 3.27 billion miles (8.2 billion km) from the Sun and 472 million miles (759.8 million km) distant from Neptune's orbit.

"The last time Halley's Comet was at this point in its orbit was in April 1948," reports the expert portal, space.com. "Following December 8, the comet will once more begin its nearly 38-year approach towards the Sun."

As per Kepler's second law of motion, an astronomical body moves fastest at perihelion and slowest at aphelion. Consequently, as Halley’s Comet transitions through aphelion, its orbital speed will see a gradual increase on its inbound journey to the Sun.

During late spring and early summer, as it speeds toward the Sun, spectators in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to spot it in the morning sky. This bodes well for skywatchers.

Halley's Comet - See you again in 2061

An interesting scientific note is that the year 2061 will reflect the comet’s last appearance in early spring 1986. However, by midsummer, the comet will be on the Sunlit side of the Earth, glowing at least 10 times brighter.

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