Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | September 21, 2022

Halley’s Surprise

(3 Minute Read. 21Sep2022)

Orbit Animation of Halley’s Comet
Relative to planetary orbits for
Neptune to Mercury (Click to enlarge)

Have you heard of the word widdershins? What about deasil?

These words were once common and very useful words. And they are directly connected to Halley’s orbit.

The Surprising Orbit of Halley’s Comet

Halley’s Comet is currently in orbit out beyond Neptune and approaching its greatest distance from the sun. Halley’s orbit around the sun lasts on average about 76 years. Thus 1 Halley-year = 76 Earth-years.

Halley’s orbit is a long narrow oval with its longest diameter 35.5 AU, where one AU (Astronomical Unit) is the distance from the earth to the sun, about 93 million miles.
The width of Halley’s orbit oval is 9.1 AU, so Halley’s orbit is about four times as long as it is wide.

The plane of Halley’s orbit is tilted at an angle of 18 degrees to the plane of the ecliptic, which is the plane of the earth’s orbit around the sun. Halley is on the southern side of this plane for 98% of the time. Only as the comet nears the sun does it zip over onto the north side of the ecliptic and then back down to the south side.

Earth orbits the Sun in a counterclockwise direction. In fact, most Solar System objects, including all the planets, orbit the sun counterclockwise when viewed from above the sun’s north pole. But Halley’s Comet is very unusual in that it has retrograde orbital motion. Halley orbits the sun clockwise, in the opposite orbital direction from the planets.

Due to its retrograde orbit, Halley’s Comet has an unusually high velocity relative to the earth at 157,800 mph. This is because as Halley passes the earth it is going in the opposite direction from the earth. This is one of the very highest relative velocities of any object in the Solar System.

If you find “clockwise” and “counterclockwise” confusing due to a lifetime of digital clocks, then the orbital direction of Halley’s Comet is handy. For tools, for sports, or for design use, you can simply refer to Halley’s orbit. Use “Halleywise” and “counter-Halley” to remember the “clockwise” and “counterclockwise” directions respectively. For example, to remember the direction to unscrew something, just think, “Turn it counter-Halley,” (the opposite way Halley orbits).

Halley’s retrograde orbital motion creates insuperable difficulties for those who believe in an evolutionary development of the Solar System. Evolutionary theories can’t account for inconsistent orbits among comets. This is one of the hushed-up difficulties with Big Bang theories.

But this is not problematic for those who believe the Almighty spoke the universe into existence and created it with tremendous diversity, beauty, and complexity from the very beginning.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. . . . For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.
(Psalm 33:6,9)

Counter-Halley Arrow

Widdershins and Deasil

Widdershins means to go in a direction opposite to the apparent course of the sun as viewed from Earth’s Northern Hemisphere. That is, widdershins means to go counter-clockwise, to go lefthandwise, to walk around an object by always keeping it on the left. Widdershins simply means counter-Halley.

Deasil is the opposite of widdershins. It means sunwise or clockwise or Halleywise.

The first documented use of widdershins was in 1513 AD in a translation of the Aeneid. This word was in common use even as late as the early 1800s when household clocks were still rare. By 1900 most homes had a clock, so clockwise and counterclockwise were used and understood.

If clockwise and counterclockwise are confusing to you today due to the widespread use of digital clocks, here are some memory hooks. Most screws, locks, valves, and faucets are closed by turning Halleywise (clockwise). Base runners in baseball, Olympic track events, and NASCAR racing all go counter-Halley, which is the same as widdershins or counterclockwise.

I first came across the word widdershins in mystery writer Dorothy Sayers’ (1893–1957) books. In her 1934 novel The Nine Tailors Sayers wrote of her detective Lord Peter Wimsey, “As he emerged [from the church] into the night . . . he turned to his right, knowing that it is unlucky to walk about a church widdershins.”

In history and in literature, the “against the sun” (counterclockwise or counter-Halley) direction of movement was long shunned as unlucky. In Britain it was thought especially unlucky to walk around a church counterclockwise (widdershins or counter-Halley).

How tragic that a person near a church should give even a moment’s thought to the devilish concept of luck! Any follower of Jesus is in His direct care, and it insults the Savior to be nervous that any superstitious triviality could disrupt that Almighty hand upon one’s life.

Followers of Christ should not ascribe events to luck. It’s an insult to the Almighty who works all things according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11).

Christians should demonstrate attitudes of gratitude and faith and should eschew superstition. Trust and thanksgiving, not luck, should be the default mode of thinking.
In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

See my blog article No Luck At All for more on the subject of luck.

Where do comets come from? There are over 4500 known comets. Mainstream science is neither scientific nor straightforward when addressing their origin. This is the subject of the sequel blog article, Fudging with Comets.

The Great Creator, the Lord God of the Bible, made His universe with great diversity, beauty, and complexity for His own glory. He created the comets.

Questions to Ponder

1. Why did God create comets? What could be their purpose?
2. Notwithstanding my earlier jest, what else besides Halley can help you remember the direction of “clockwise”?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom.
Alere Flammam Veritatis.
Soli Deo Gloria.

Read the prequels:
Curious Comets
Halley’s Comet

Read the sequel:
Fudging with Comets

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday September 21, 2022 A.D.

Great is the Lord, and highly to be praised,
And His greatness is unsearchable.
One generation shall praise Your works to another,
And shall declare Your mighty acts.
On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
(Psalm 145:3-5)

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  1. God is such a Great God and greatly to be praised. Amen

    Liked by 1 person

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