Halley’s Comet – Doomsday
May 19, 1910
Earth passes through the tail of Halley’s comet. The comet’s tail was known to contain the toxic gas cyanogen, which led many to believe life on Earth would die when it passed through the tail. This caused panicked buying of gas masks and quack “anti-comet pills” and “anti-comet umbrellas.”
Mark Twain, who was born two weeks after the comet’s 1835 perihelion, wrote in his 1909 autobiography:
“I came in with Halley’s comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’.”
Twain died the day following the comet’s 1910 perihelion.
The comet is named after Edmond Halley, who in 1705 predicted the comet of 1682 would return in 1758. When this prediction proved correct, the comet was named in his honor.