In Our Time

BBC Radio 4

Society & Culture, History

Chart Positions

Society & Culture 65
History 16

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of ideas



January 17th, 2013

Episode 264 of 515 episodes

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss comets, the 'dirty snowballs' of the Solar System. In the early 18th century the Astronomer Royal Sir Edmond Halley compiled a list of appearances of comets, bright objects like stars with long tails which are occasionally visible in the night sky. He concluded that many of these apparitions were in fact the same comet, which returns to our skies around every 75 years, and whose reappearance he correctly predicted. Halley's Comet is today the best known example of a comet, a body of ice and dust which orbits the Sun. Since they contain materials from the time when the Solar System was formed, comets are regarded by scientists as frozen time capsules, with the potential to reveal important information about the early history of our planet and others. With: Monica Grady Professor of Planetary and Space Sciences at the Open University Paul Murdin Senior Fellow at the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge Don Pollacco Professor of Astronomy at the University of Warwick Producer: Thomas Morris.