My school books showed illustrations like this one, of Halley’s Comet crossing the sky in 1881. It would return in 1986, so I would get to see it in my lifetime.
What we saw in 1986 was a puny disappointment, of course, so I wondered … had the newspaper illustrations of the day grossly exaggerated the comet’s actual appearance?
The accuracy of freshly published Illustrations by Leopold Trouvelot, depicting other celestial objects, convinces me that his Halley’s Comet depiction is correct. I really did miss out on a spectacle.
Poor Trouvelot is most remembered for accidentally introducing the gypsy moth into North America, causing apocalyptic damage to forests and crops. He was just following the American Dream, trying to figure out a way to get filthy rich by breeding super silk worms.
Trouvelot was probably a genius, but when his gypsy moths escaped, his place in history became an unenviable one.