THAT'S THE WAY IT WAS

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May 19, 1910: Halley’s Comet Returns
The 1910 approach was notable for several reasons: it was the first approach of which photographs exist, and the first for which spectroscopic data were obtained. Furthermore, the comet made a relatively close approach of 0.15AU, making it a spectacular sight. Indeed, on 19 May, the Earth actually passed through the tail of the comet. One of the substances discovered in the tail by spectroscopic analysis was the toxic gas cyanogen, which led astronomer Camille Flammarion to claim that, when Earth passed through the tail, the gas “would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.” His pronouncement led to panicked buying of gas masks and quack “anti-comet pills” and “anti-comet umbrellas” by the public. In reality, as other astronomers were quick to point out, the gas is so diffuse that the world suffered no ill effects from the passage through the tail.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halley’s_Comet
(1910) Photo: Lambert/Getty

May 19, 1910: Halley’s Comet Returns

The 1910 approach was notable for several reasons: it was the first approach of which photographs exist, and the first for which spectroscopic data were obtained. Furthermore, the comet made a relatively close approach of 0.15AU, making it a spectacular sight. Indeed, on 19 May, the Earth actually passed through the tail of the comet. One of the substances discovered in the tail by spectroscopic analysis was the toxic gas cyanogen, which led astronomer Camille Flammarion to claim that, when Earth passed through the tail, the gas “would impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.” His pronouncement led to panicked buying of gas masks and quack “anti-comet pills” and “anti-comet umbrellas” by the public. In reality, as other astronomers were quick to point out, the gas is so diffuse that the world suffered no ill effects from the passage through the tail.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halley’s_Comet

(1910) Photo: Lambert/Getty

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