Everything You Need to Know About Halley's Comet

A comet smells like what?!

Halley's Comet has been around for a long time, and reminds us every so often that it's still here with quite the show. Here's everything you need to know about this amazing space phenomena.

01
of 06

How often can you spot it?

Digital Vision/Getty Images

If you managed to catch the meteor shower from Halley's Comet last night, then you've witnessed a once-a-year spectacle, potentially seeing up to 60 meteors. That's right, although Halley's Comet only makes an appearance every 75 years or so, its tail creates a shower that you can spot every year around this time! Hope you got to see it!

When will Halley's Comet reappear next? —>

02
of 06

Who discovered it?

De Agostini Picture Library/Getty Images

It probably won't surprise you that the comet was named after the man who discovered it, Edmund Halley. He figured out that the comets that had been spotted in 1456, 1531, 1607, and 1682 were actually all the same comet, whose orbit carried it back again every 75 or 76 years. His prediction that the comet would return in 1758 was correct, although sadly he did not live to see it.

How did Halley figure out the comets were all the same? —>

03
of 06

Why were comets referred to as "dirty snowballs?"

Francesco Reginato/Getty Images

Historically, comets were referred to as "dirty snowballs" since they were thought to simply be large chunks of ice mixed with a small amount of ice and dust. While this is true for the most part, NASA experiments have helped further define a comet. Comets are frozen dusty chunks of ice, but they're ones that periodically make their way from the outer solar system and loop in near the Sun during part of their orbits.

So what happens when the sun warms a comet? —>

04
of 06

What does a comet smell like?

ESA/Handout/Getty Images

Although comets look pretty cool, they sure don't smell great. Apparently comets have quite the strong scent, and smell like a mix of rotten eggs, a whiff of horse stable, and the pungent, suffocating odor of formaldehyde. Pee-ew!

What actually makes the comet smell like that? —>

05
of 06

Is a killer comet possible?

Jay P. Morgan/Getty Images

There is actually a very real possibility that a very large object, such as a comet or asteroid, could one day be on a collision course with Earth.

"History tells us that large comets or asteroids periodically collide with Earth, and the results can be devastating. There is evidence that a large object collided with Earth about 65 million years ago and caused the extinction of the dinosaurs." – John P. Millis, Ph.D

But is there anything we can –>

06
of 06

Bonus: The "Comet" in pop culture

Zotdragon/Wikimedia Commons

Because of the exciting nature of the comet, its name has been used for sports teams, theme park rides, and more. Here are just a few:

  • The Comet – Wood Coaster Ride at The Great Escape

  • Missouri Comets – Expansion Indoor Team in the Major Indoor Soccer League 

  • "Night of the Comet" – 1984 Post-Apocalyptic Film

  • Comet Skateboards – Skateboarding Brand

  • "This is the most exciting thing I've seen since Halley's comet collided with the moon." – Homer Simpson Quote

Up Next: How The Planets Got Their Names (And Other Things You Didn't Know)