PROVO, D.C., Sept. 13 (UPI) — A celestial event seen and described by ancient Greeks in 466 B.C. may have been the earliest sighting of Halley’s comet, researchers say.
Ancient scribes wrote of a large meteorite that slammed into northern Greece between 466 B.C. and 467 B.C., and also recorded a comet in the sky at the same time, a detail scholars say had received little attention until now, the BBC reported.
Researchers writing in the Journal of Cosmology say Halley’s Comet would have been visible for about 80 days in 466 B.C.
Until now, the earliest probable sighting of the comet was considered to be in 240 B.C., an event recorded by Chinese astronomers.
Aristotle wrote about meteor about a century after it occurred and said about the same time the meteorite fell, “a comet was visible in the west.”
Astronomer Eric Hintz and philosopher Daniel Graham, both of Brigham Young University in Utah, recreated the likely orbit of the comet to see if it agreed with the ancient observations.
They calculated Halley’s comet could have been visible for about 80 days between early June and late August in 466 B.C.
“It’s tough going back that far in time. It’s not like an eclipse, which is really predictable,” Hintz told BBC News.
“But we feel fairly good about this. If the [sighting] in 240 B.C. is accepted, this has a fairly solid possibility.”
Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.