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.