Wednesday, 15 September 2010

First Sighting of Halley's Comet Pushed Back Two Centuries


Researchers have modeled the likely path taken by Halley's comet in the 5th century BC and compared their findings to ancient Greek texts from the period. They now suggest the ancient Greeks saw the comet, which would make the sightings over two centuries earlier than previous known observations. Chinese astronomers first described the comet in 240 BC, but in ancient Greece in 466-467 BC Greek authors described a meteor the size of a wagon that crashed into the Hellespont region of northern Greece during daylight hours, frightening the population and creating a tourist attraction that lasted five centuries. The ancient authors describe a comet in the sky at the time. Researchers Daniel Graham, a philosopher, and Eric Hintz, an astronomer, from Brigham Young University at Provo in Utah, compared their model of the comet's likely path with the texts describing the meteor crash. Halley's comet would have been visible for 82 days maximum, depending on atmospheric conditions at the time, while the ancient texts say the comet was visible for 75 days.

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