Comet legends: from ignorance to fear

Comet legends: from ignorance to fear

Last week we told you about the legends with which a large number of cultures explain the eclipses.

These astronomical events are not the only ones that have been shrouded in mystery and superstition throughout all time, but the same is true of many others, such as the kites.

For this reason, today we have made a place for you in our section of astronomy legends, to tell you what some cultures thought about the appearance in the sky of these fireballs. And it is that, if you think about it, without the knowledge about astronomy that we have today, its appearance must be quite terrifying, so the stories that emerged do not have any waste.

What is a comet?

As I was saying, the knowledge that we have today on the subject prevents us from creating the same fear around these events that centuries ago. But what exactly are they?

Comets are celestial bodies, composed by ice, dust and rocks. They are in the Solar system, spinning around the Sun in very eccentric elliptical orbits, so they usually approach him with a quite considerable period. On the other hand, sometimes, when passing near another star, its orbit is disturbed, being thrown out of the Solar System or shortening their orbits. All these fluctuations are what end up giving rise to the phenomenon that we can witness from Earth.

What are the legends of the most famous comets?

According to the sixth Mayan prophecy, a comet must have endangered the Earth in January 2008. And it is that, for this culture, comets are a sign of change, which predicts the beginning of a new stage and, with it, the balance of the world.

Many other cultures also considered them a sign of bad augury. For example, in the Ancient Rome The recent appearance of a comet was associated with the murder of Julius Caesar; whereas, according to Mongols, warned of storms, frosts and all kinds of destruction, and in Babylon they were blamed for causing floods, fire and brimstone.

Halley’s Comet, the celestial body that was excommunicated

Halley’s Comet is a very bright comet that rotates around the Sun with a period of 76 years. Its appearance in the earth’s sky has been documented on numerous occasions throughout history, the oldest being accompanied by fear-laden testimonies.

A good example is the year 1910, when a large part of the population associated it with an imminent end of the world.At that time there were already enough astronomy knowledge to deny those superstitions; but, despite the messages of calm from the scientists, many people ended up committing suicide.

However, it was many centuries before when one of the most curious tropes around this comet was committed. Middle Ages, hunger, disease and all kinds of natural disasters were plaguing humanity. Suddenly the Halley comet made an appearance in the sky, mockingly waving his fiery tail. Everyone considered him guilty of his misfortunes and the fear of future attacks began to invade the population, until the Pope Callistus III I decided to cut my roots, excommunicating the comet and thus reassuring Christianity, which ceased to fear reprisals from the star.

It is curious how ignorance can lead to so much fear. Luckily, today we know enough to fear very little. As Marie Curie said, we stop fearing what we have learned to understand And, of course, he was absolutely right.

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