February 9, 2020
Day 40 of 366
February 9th is the fortieth day of the year. It is St. Maroun’s Day in Lebanon.
Historical items of note:
- In 1825, the United States House of Representatives elected John Qunicy Adams as the sixth President of the United States. This step was taken after no candidate received a majority of electoral votes in the US presidential election of 1824.
- In 1870, President Ulysses S. Grant established the U.S. Weather Bureau by signing a joint resolution of Congress.
- In 1895, William G. Morgan created a game called Mintonette. It was later renamed as volleyball.
- In 1964, The Beatles made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, performing before a record audience of 73 million viewers.
- In 1981, actor Tom Hiddleston was born.
- In 1997, “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” aired during the eighth season of The Simpsons. It was the show’s 167th episode and marked The Simpsons surpassing The Flintstones for the most episodes produced for a prime-time animated series.
In 1986, Halley’s Comet completed its most recent appearance in the inner solar system.
Comet Halley, officially 1P/Halley, has been observed and recorded since at least 240BC. Halley’s Comet was the first to be recognized as periodic, also known as short-period comets, which means that their orbital periods around the sun are less than 200 years. Halley’s Comet has a period of approximately 75 years.
This period was calculated in 1705 by Edmond Halley – friend, editor, and publisher to Sir Isaac Newton, who could not reconcile the physics of comets during his 1687 publication of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica – who used twenty-four cometary observations to determine that multiple sightings over time were really the same comet. He had personally observed the comet in September 1862 but was unable to verify the comet’s return since he died in 1742, sixteen years before the event in 1758.
During the 1986 orbit through the inner solar system, Halley’s Comet became the first comet to be observed in detail by spacecraft. This provided the first observational data on the structure, including the comet’s nucleus and how the coma and tail functioned. Due to the 75-year period between perihelion events, the return was a large pop culture event. I personally have a memento in a commemorative Matchbox Mercury Police Car.
The next predicted perihelion of Halley’s Comet is July 28, 2061.
The Thing About Today is an effort to look at each day of 2020 with respect to its historical context.
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