For more than 2200 years of recorded history, comets have played a unique role in culture and science. However, it is only in the past 400 years that these heavenly bodies have been scientifically studied to determine their origin and composition. During 1985 and 1986, six spacecraft probed Comets Halley and Giacobini-Zinner, and returned more information on comets than had been gathered in the past centuries.
Comet Seeker


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Smithsonian Institution, NASM Photo

This special telescope is called a Comet Seeker. Built about 1900, it was designed to detect the faint diffuse glow of small cometary tails. This telescope was constructed as a prototype by the Brashear Company for Yerkes Observatory.
Lent to the National Air and Space Museum by D.H. DeVorkin

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Exploring The Planets

1998 National Air and Space Museum