Our infinite and vast galaxy is home to countless cosmic secrets and events that we can only dream of discovering in this lifetime. Astronomers, however, have managed to catch a glimpse of some of these rare celestial shows over the past years—from bright and tragic comets, to titanic thunderstorms unknown to this world.
That said, while debates over the evidence of a parallel universe currently wages on throughout the internet, we look back at a few of the most extraordinary discoveries already seen and proven by humankind.
Check them out below:
1. Halley’s Comet
Considered the most popular comet known in the Solar System, Halley’s Comet was named after astronomer Edmond Halley who calculated that the cosmic body passes by Earth every 75-76 years. Its last recorded occurrence was in 1986, slating its next friendly Earth drop for 2061. An article by Space.com predicts that “when Halley's sweeps by Earth in 2061, the comet will be on the same side of the sun as Earth and will be much brighter than in 1986.” While it may take a while for the fated stretch of light to zoom past, its remnants can be observed annually through what is now known as the Eta Aquarids meteor shower every May, and the Orionid meteor shower every October.
2. Hale-Bopp Comet
Dubbed The Great Comet of 1997, the Hale-Bopp Comet was separately discovered by Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp in 1995. It’s one of the most viewed comets in history and was visible to the naked eye from Earth for a whole 18 months. In fact, NASA keeps an online database of over 5000 images of the phenomenon as maintained by their Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The Hale-Bopp Comet put on quite a show when it appeared in 1997 when, according to NASA, it reportedly burned 1000 times brighter than the Halley’s Comet at the time of its discovery. Not only that, the celestial event marked a truly historical time since it last came close to Earth 4200 years ago. As projected, it’ll take thousands of years before the Hale-Bopp comet graces Earth with a light show again.
Unfortunately, the comet’s historic passing ended in great tragedy when 39 people from the American religious cult, Heaven’s Gate, embarked on a mass suicide. Wearing matching dark clothes and brand-new Nike sneakers, the cult’s members were swayed by its leaders to believe that “suicide would allow them to leave their bodily ‘containers’ and enter an alien spacecraft hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet.”
3. Blue Moon
When another full moon appears in the span of a calendar month, the second one is then considered a Blue Moon. As you can probably already tell, this phenomenon has nothing to do with the moon magically turning blue. Instead, the name is derived from the saying “once in a blue moon,” seeing as the length between full moons normally take 29.5 days, making a second appearance in a month an infrequent event. According to NASA, a blue moon occurs every 2.5 years. Thankfully, we’re in luck this year as the next blue moon is projected for this coming Halloween, October 31, 2020. Make sure you get to view it for yourself because the next blue moon that falls exactly on the spooky season isn’t coming for another 19 years.
4. Total Solar Eclipse
According to Time and Date, a Total Solar Eclipse occurs when “the New Moon comes between the Sun and Earth and casts the darkest part of its shadow, the umbra, on Earth.” Speaking at a global level, this phenomenon isn’t as a rare everyone thinks since the event is projected to happen every 18 months somewhere in the world. The length at which it may be visible again in a specific location, however, could take centuries of waiting. Keep in mind that where a total solar eclipse could be occurring in one part of the world, in other places it’s possible it that can only be seen as a partial solar eclipse. With this, Belgian meteorologist and astrologist Jean Meeus calculated that a total solar eclipse, at any given point on Earth, may only reoccur once every 375 years.
5. The Great White Thunderstorm on Saturn
Also known as the Great White Spot, this massive thunderstorm almost as wide as the earth ravages Saturn every 20 to 30 Earth years. The event, stretching hundreds and thousands of kilometers, is monstrous enough to be visible from Earth through a telescope. To date, only six thunderstorms have been observed by astronomers in Saturn’s atmosphere since 1876. The last one, photographed by the Cassini space probe, was recorded back in 2010.