Why Halley's Comet May Be Linked to Famine 1,500 Years Ago
SAN FRANCISCO — The ancients had ample reason to view comets as harbingers of doom, it would appear.
|This photograph of Halley's Comet was taken January 13,1986, by James W. Young, resident astronomer of JPL's Table Mountain Observatory in the San Bernardino Mountains, using the 24-inch reflective telescope. Credit: NASA/JPL|
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A piece of the famous Halley's comet likely slammed into Earth in A.D. 536, blasting so much dust into the atmosphere that the planet cooled considerably, a new study suggests. This dramatic climate shift is linked to drought and famine around the world, which may have made humanity more susceptible to "Justinian's plague" in A.D. 541-542 — the first recorded emergence of the Black Death in Europe.
The new results come from an of Greenland ice that was laid down between A.D. 533 and 540. The ice cores record large amounts of atmospheric dust during this seven-year period, not all of it originating on Earth. [Photos of Halley's Comet Through History]