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Littell's Living Age/Volume 132/Issue 1708/Miscellany

The Comet of the Bayeux Tapestry. — There can now remain very little doubt that the grand comet which astonished Europe in the year of the Norman Conquest leading to a multitude of records in the annals of the time, and forming, with its astonished beholders, the subject of embroidery on the celebrated Bayeux tapestry, was the famous body which now bears universally the name of our countryman Halley. Allowing for the peculiar character of Chinese observations of comets, the account they have left us of its track amongst the stars from the beginning of April to the end of the first week in June, 1066, is well represented by elements not differing more from the actual elements of Halley's comet than accumulated effect of perturbation in eight centuries may well explain. If it is assumed that Halley's comet arrived at its least distance from the sun on March 18, its position when discovered by the Chinese in the morning sky on April 2, would be as they record in their sidereal division "Shih," two degrees south of the equator, and distant from the earth rather less than eight-tenths of the earth's mean distance from the sun. Between this date and June 8, or sixty-seven days after discovery, which is the duration of visibility assigned, the comet would make a grand sweep across the sky from the constellation Pegasus into Sextans between Leo and Hydra, or as the Chinese express it, "through fourteen sidereal divisions from Shih to Chang." The imposing aspect of the comet described in European chronicles and confirmed by the Chinese annals, wherein it is compared in brilliancy to Venus, and by exaggeration, no doubt, even to the moon, is fully explained by the circumstances under which Halley's comet must have been observed if in perihelion on March 18. When last seen in China it had receded to one and three-fourths times the earth's distance from the sun.