Waiting for Halley

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Waiting for Halley

On a cold December night in 1758, a German farm-owner from Dresden stood resolute in the quiet, frosty air, spellbound at the image in the eyepiece of his telescope. It must have felt like a gift from the heavens. After all, it was Christmas night and Johann Georg Palitzsch had become the first person to witness the return of a long-awaited visitor; a tumbling snowball seven miles wide from beyond the orbits of Uranus and Neptune – as yet undiscovered worlds. The object in question was already a legend and its return had been foretold by one of the greatest astronomers of the age. Palitzsch knew he had recovered Halley’s Comet.

 

Halley's comet

Halley’s comet imaged by Giotto in 1986. Credit: ESA/MPAE Lindau

Read more in our article for the Guardian by our astronomer Tom Kerss here.
For help with your stargazing session, read our guide for beginners here.

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