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Picture above: Photo of San Miguel Church, the oldest church in America, circa 1829-1865, Riddle. Courtesy Library of Congress. Right: Painting of Frontenac and Sir William Phips at surrender of Quebec in 1690 during King William's War, circa 1915, Charles William Jefferys. Courtesy Library and Archives Canada via Wikipedica Commons.

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Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1680s

1682



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  • 1682 Detail

    September 15, 1682 - Halley's Comet observed by Edmond Halley, with accurate prediction of its return in 1758.

    Halley's Comet


    It wasn't the first observation of what would eventually become known as Halley's Comet. However, when Edmond (Edmund) Halley discovered its trajectory across the sky on September 15, 1682 and made his observations and calculations that it would return, his name would be synonymous with this astronomical visitor. The comet had been returning every seventy-five years or so (74-79 years) even before Halley observed and calculated that frequency. The first recorded appearance of this periodic comet in the sky occurred in 239/240 B.C. in the Chinese book, Records of the Grand Historian or Shiji; a predated appearance circa 467 B.C. may have been Halley's Comet as well, seen in Greece, Turkey, and China. It was recorded several times after that in B.C. chronicles; in 164 B.C. and 87 B.C. on Babylonian tablets, the second also noted in Armenia and China. Again in 12 B.C., the comet thought to be Halley appeared again, recorded in the Book of Han by Chinese astronomers.

    So what took so long for astronomers of the latter years to postulate that this recurring phenomenom was the same comet (141 AD, 218 AD, 295 AD, 374 AD, 451 AD, 530 AD, 607 AD, 684 AD, 760 AD, 837 AD, 912 AD, 989 AD, 1066 AD, 1145 AD, 1222 AD, 1301 AD, 1378 AD, 1456 AD)? Technology and scientific theories. When Edmond Halley started to study the comets recorded on August 26, 1531 and October 27, 1607 upon his sighting of Halley's 1682, he noticed the similarities of the description, frequency, and made a prediction after speaking to Issac Newton two years later, August 1684, about his ideas on the laws of motion.

    Halley and Newton remained in close contact over the next decades, with Halley serving as editor of Newton's Principia in 1687, even surpassing some of Newton's expertise in orbit calculation using elliptical theory. However, it was not until public disclosure of his thoughts on the comet's return during a presentation to the Royal Society in June 1696 that Halley put the idea of the 1531, 1607, and 1682 comets being one and the same after Newton had helped him get data from John Flamsteed, the Royal Astronomer, whom Halley had known since his college days at Oxford, but now had disagreements.

    Edmond Halley waited another decade before he published his findings; in 1705, he published a book on twenty-four comets, include the three periodic comets to become known as Halley's, the "Astronomiae cometicae synopsis" in the "Philosophical transactions." In its first Latin edition, he made the prediction, "I can undertake confidently to predict the return of the [comet] in 1758." This was bold in scientific circles, as it was believed at the time that comets only made one pass through the solar system.

    This prediction that the comet of 1531, 1607, and 1682 would come back, was dated for March of 1758. He got the month wrong, but not the year. On December 25, 1758, Johann Palitzsch, a German astronomer noticed its first return. Halley, now deceased, had correctly predicted the first known periodic, returning comet. It would be known as Halley's Comet ever since.



    Halley's Comet Returns


    After its predicted appearance in 1758-1759, Halley's comet made a return in August of 1835, sighted around the globe until November 16. Sketches were made by E.J. Cooper and F.W. Bassel. It was observed in the United States at Yale College on August 31, 1835.

    In 1910, Halley's Comet was a media darling, with watch parties throughout the world, returning after its shortest departure of 74.42 years due to the effects of the planets on its orbit. It first appeared on April 10 and was seen, and photographed for the first time, with Earth passing through its tail on May 19/20, 1835.

    Halley's Comet made its last appearance, reaching perihelion on February 9, 1986 after sightings in 1985. It gained its closest distance to Earth on April 11 at 63 million kilometers. Several space probes (Japan's Suisel and Sakigate, Soviet's Vega 1 and Vega 2, International ISEE-3, European Space Agency's Giotto, NASA's Pioneer 7 and 12) were launched to study it at a closer distance. The comet was a disappointment to viewers, however, as its approach was on the opposite side of the sun.

    Halley's dimensions; 9.3 miles by 5 miles (15 km by 8 km). It moves opposite, retrograde, of the Earth's motion around the Sun. The comet loses three to ten feet from its nucleus during each orbit of the Sun and has been estimated to have existed for sixteen thousand years.

    It is predicted to return on July 28, 2061. Even though Halley's Comet is the best known comet to most, it was not the closest comet to come to earth. Lexell's Comet, on July 1, 1770, came within 2.2 million kilometers. Alas, since that time, it may have been ejected from our solar system.


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    Who Was Edmond Halley?


    Edmond Halley was an English astronomer born in 1656 in Middlesex, England. His fascination with mathematics, then astronomy, was fostered at St. Paul's School, then Queen's College at Oxford. His professional work began on his task to compile of catalogue of Southern Hemisphere stars; Flamsteed had done a previous catalogue of Northern Hemisphere stars. Halley traveled to Saint Helena in the south Atlantic Ocean in 1676, setting up an observatory, then publishing his Catalogus Stellarum Australium in 1679 on three hundred and forty-one observed southern stars.

    At the age of 22, he became a Fellow of the Royal Society. Halley began his study of observations of Halley's Comet in 1682. By 1720, Edmond Halley had succeeded John Flamsteed as Royal Astronomer, holding that position for the rest of his life. Halley's Comet was not named in his honor until after its predicted return was proved accurate. It is officially known as 1P/Halley. The P stands for periodic.

    Image above: Montage (left) Edmond (Edmund) Halley, circa 1722, Richard Phillips. Courtesy National Portrait Gallery via Wikipedia Commons; (right) Photo of Halley's Comet in 1986, 1986, W. Liller. Courtesy NASA via Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Montage of two photos illustrating comets; left, the great comet of 1881, E.L. Trouvelot, designer, Charles Schribner & Sons; right, portion of the illustration of Haley's Comet and others of the last century, 1910, Illustrated London News. Both courtesy Library of Congress. Info source: "Halley's Comet: Facts About the Most Famous Comet," 2017, Elizabeth Howell, space.com; "The First Predicted Return of Comet Halley," 1985, Peter Broughton; "1P/Halley," solarsystem.nasa.gov; Wikipedia.


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