Comet Halley hangs in the Milky Way
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Image and text © 1986-2002, Australian Astronomical Observatory, Photograph by David Malin.


Despite the media hype, Comet Halley was a disappointment when it returned in 1985-86. This was not a surprise to astronomers, who knew at its last return in 1910 that the comet would not be well placed when it reappeared 76 years later. On this occasion the comet entered the inner solar system and was always very distant from Earth. This image made with the Anglo-Australian Telescope shows the first signs of a tail as it approached the Sun in late 1985.

After it rounded the Sun it reappeared in the southern sky. Not only was this very close to the horizon for many northern hemisphere skywatchers, but the comet was also seen against the bright backdrop of the Milky Way. The result was that the comet was never conspicuous and the media were disappointed, mainly because they predicted that some vivid, sparkling apparition would streak across the sky. However, the numerous visitors who came to Australia to see it enjoyed the spectacle, subtle though it was. This wide angle picture was made with a normal camera in April, 1986, and as well as the comet it shows the the brightest part of the Milky Way.

Related images
AAT 28.   Wide angle view of the southern Milky Way
AAT 46.   Halley's Comet on December 9, 1985
AAT 117. Halley's Comet, April 9-10, 1986 (AAT image)
UKS 19.  The tails of Comet Halley on 12 March, 1986
UKS 34.  Halley's Comet on April 9-10, 1986
UKS 33.  Comet Hyukatake, March, 1996
MISC 9.   The southern Milky Way from Crux to Carina
MISC 10. The Milky Way in Scorpius, Ara and Norma
MISC 21. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds
B&W image Features in the dust tail of Comet Halley, 12 March, 1986

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Updated by David Malin, 2012, March 17