On May 26, 1910, Estelle Clements saw Halley’s Comet; she wrote in her diary, “Fine sight of comet in p.m.” It was an historic occasion to which she gave short shrift, going on to write nonchalantly, “Rhododendrons are in full flower. Poppies and peonies are coming out.”
Elsewhere, however, the world was in a panic, people fearing impending disaster from the comet’s poisonous gases. In 1909, as speculation about the upcoming appearance was rife, Mark Twain predicted he would die when the comet next passed over the earth. It was detected at an observatory on April 20, 1910, and, indeed, Mark Twain died the following day. On May 6, as it approached the earth, King Edward VII died, his demise blamed squarely on the comet’s malevolent effects.
The comet appears about once every 75 years, and wouldn’t be seen again until 1986; the next sighting is expected in 2061. It has a nucleus of 10 x 5 x 5 miles, and its 2061 approach has followers predicting that it will then collide with the earth and cause untold ruin.