Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet Courtesy geocities.com on Lowcountry Sun Online
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Mark Twain and Halley’s Comet
W. Heath Robinson: "Searching for Halley's Comet at Greenwich Observatory" (1909).
Halley’s Comet, still in sight on May 4, 1910, thirteen days after Mark Twain’s death.

Halley’s Perihelion

Nov. 16, 1835

Mark Twain

Born: Nov. 30, 1835

Halley’s Perihelion

April 20, 1910

Mark Twain

Died: Apr. 21, 1910

According to Albert Bigelow Paine, Mark Twain’s first biographer, as the author’s heart attacks increased during 1909, he began to make preparations, both private and public, for his own departure: “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835,” he said to Paine. “It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ Oh, I am looking forward to that.”

As the dates indicate, Mark Twain got his wish. Having been born only fourteen days after perihelion, died only one day after perihelion in 1910, Twain almost literally rode the comet in and out! Halley’s Comet, also called Comet Halley, the first comet whose return was predicted. In 1705 the English astronomer Edmond Halley published a work that included his calculations showing that comets observed in 1531, 1607, and 1682 were really one comet and predicting that comet’s return in 1758. The comet was sighted late in 1758, passed perihelion (closest distance to the Sun) in March 1759, and was named in Halley’s honor.

The earliest recorded sighting came from the ancient Greeks, who recorded a comet in the sky when a wagon-full of meteor slammed into the northern Hellespont region sometime between 467 and 466 B.C.

The next predicted perihelion of Halley’s Comet is July 28, 2061.

Courtesy geocities.com

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