Interesting If True
Interesting If True - Episode 4 - Fantastic Flammarion Facts
Welcome to Interesting If True, where we take turns telling tantalizing tales. I'm your host this week, Jenn, and with me, as always, my bearded and bedraggled co hosts Aaron, Shea, and Steve,
I'm Aaron, and this week I learned that while a comatose state is one of inactivity, a comet only has a coma when it’s active!
I'm Shea, and this week I learned that mandatory temperature screenings will be required for fans attending the Foreigner reunion concert.IIT If you're hot blooded they'll check it and see.
I'm Steve and while I’ve heard that man cannot live on bread alone, now that Aaron gave me his old bread machine, I might just give it a try.
Camille Claims Comet is Coming Calamitously
I’m Jenn and I want to welcome you to a story of weird history...ree...ree...ree.
This is a timely tale. In fact Monday, day of recording, May 18th of this year, is the supposed 110th anniversary of this particular cosmic event (well, the earthly part is debatable, but I’ll get to that). Yes, if we rewind to the year 1910, we will discover that the heavenly visitor, Halley’s Comet, was making its roughly-every-76-years visit to our skies.
Now Halley’s Comet was, of course, no stranger to our ancestors. It’s considered a ‘short-period’ comet, or a comet with regular visits of 200 years or less. In fact, Halley’s is the only short period comet that is visible to the naked human eye, and the only that is possible to witness twice in a human lifetime. Since it’s last buzzing of Earth was 1986, I’m hoping I might make it a twice-r. (I was 6, and if I can keep my crappy immune system in check…)
As a quick informational aside: the comet is named for Edmond Halley, a 17th century astronomer who was the first to realize the comet appeared in regular intervals.
Of course, there’s a rich human history surrounding the appearance of comets, usually involving everyone losing their minds in terror. At least, that is, until more recent times. And by recent, I don’t exactly mean the 1910 visit. Nope, the 1910 arrival definitely had its share of comet-induced pandemonium.
Why were people in such an uproar in this relatively recent time period? Well, as we are always, continuously reminded, humans as a group just can’t seem to understand science. And in this particular case, it was pretty crappy science.
It was in early April of 1910 that French astronomer, Camille Flammarion (a Harry Potter character yet to be written), announces that the materials in the comet’s tail, most notably ‘cyanogen’, were highly poisonous and, since this was an unusually close pass of the comet, it spelled certain doom to inhabitants of Earth. I’m not exaggerating on his message.