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How did Halley's Comet get its name?

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Quick Answer

Halley's Comet is named after the English astronomer Edmund Halley. Although not the first person to observe the comet, Halley was the first person to recognize that the comet returned to the Earth after a set interval, calculated as every 76 years.

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Full Answer

Halley realized that objects seen in the sky in 1531, 1607 and 1682 were actually one single object, a comet, which he predicted would return again in 1758. Although Halley died before the date of the comet's predicted return, it is named after him to honor his discovery and the accuracy of his prediction. Since the naming of Halley's Comet, scientists have followed in the tradition of naming comet's after the scientists who discover them.

Prior to its identification and naming, sightings of Halley's Comet go back to at least 239 B.C., when it was identified by Chinese astronomers. The comet is famously illustrated in the Bayeux Tapestry, woven to commemorate the Norman invasion of England in 1066. Other recordings of the comet's passage can be dated to 164 B.C., 87 B.C. and 1301 A.D., when it was again included in artwork from the period. It was these and other recorded sightings of the comet that Halley used to calculate the comet's orbit and predict when it would once again pass the Earth.

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