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Topics in Chronicling America - Halley's Comet

Streaking toward Earth after a 75-year absence, Halley's Comet is reported in the popular press as an "evil eye of the sky," creating mass hysteria, the public fearing it would “snuff out all life on Earth.” Opportunistic entrepreneurs hawked anti-comet pills, gas masks, and comet-protecting umbrellas. In the end, the May 1910 event proved harmless, while marking the first use of the spectroscope and the first photographic documentation of the comet’s sighting. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/). Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.
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Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • September 1909: The first major news stories about Halley’s Comet begin to circulate.
  • February 1910: French astronomer Camille Flammarion is reported as saying that cyanogen gas in the comet’s tail will “snuff out” all life. Public anxiety about the “end of the world” persists for months.
  • April 20, 1910: The first sightings of Halley’s Comet are reported.
  • May 1910: Halley’s Comet passes between the earth and the sun without causing any atmospheric disturbances.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Halley’s Comet, Cyanogen, Flammarion.
  • To narrow results, limit the search to dates between April 20, 1910 and May 10, 1910.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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  February 11, 2013
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