Greeks earliest sighting of Halley’s comet in history around 466 BC say scientists. The Journal of Cosmology says that the Greeks may have seen the comet during a period of 80 days in 466BC. The previous earliest reference to Halley’s comet was by the Chinese is 240 BC, according to New Scientist magazine. But writings by the ancient Greeks about a large meteorite falling between 466 – 467 BC may change who saw Halley’s comet first.

Halley  s Comet
Halley’s Comet as seen in 1986 by ESA’s Giotto space probe.

According to researchers, the ancient Greeks wrote about a large meteorite falling during the day in northern Greece. The object was large, described as a “wagon load” and said to be of “burnt color”. Aristotle wrote about the event a century later in his work, Meteorology. Aristotle added that about the same time the meteorite fell, “a comet was visible in the west”.

Two professors from Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah calculated the path of Halley’s comet. They determined that it would have been visible from June through August in 466 BC. Astronomer Eric Hintz and philosopher Daniel Graham are confident that the Greeks would have had an opportunity to see Halley’s comet for about 75 to 80 days during the summer of 466 BC.

If the ancient Greeks earliest sighting of Halley’s comet is true, then this changes the historic honors of the Chinese being the first to spot and record it’s arrival in 240 BC. Both the Chinese and the Babylonians made very detailed records of their astronomical sightings. The ancient Greeks, however, did not. If we can believe Aristotle (and why shouldn’t we?) then this also opens the door to another question. Was the meteorite that fell in northern Greece that year a fragment of Halley’s comet? That would be truly remarkable, especially if it’s remnants could be tracked down.

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