Wooly Hollow, Charlton Recreation Area, Gulpha Gorge, Lake Ouachita and Lake DeGray. Tens of thousands of visitors were afforded educational programs, printed material and actual telescopic observations of the famous comet, which returns every 76 years.
The next return of the most famous of celestial objects will be in 2062. Our 10-year-old visitors in 1986 will be 82 years old upon its return, and those planning the “Welcome Back Halley’s Comet” in 1986 will be seeing the comet from their special place among the Heavens, and not from Earth.
Numerous viewing sessions drew well over 1,000 people, among them the cold night atop Queen Wilhelmina State Park (over 3,000 visitors), a mid-spring viewing at Mount Nebo (excess of 2,000 visitors) and multiple Welcome Back Halley’s events from Petit Jean Mountain throughout the 14 month viewing window.
Park Superintendent Chris Snodgrass oversaw the operations of Petit Jean Park at that time and Andy Thompson did so for Mount Nebo State Park.
A total of four “Welcome Back Halley’s” weekends were scheduled at Petit Jean Mountain, with lectures, slide shows and discussions held at Mather Lodge (the old one) and one “All About Comets” presentation that drew such a huge crowd that we moved it to an overflowing Recreation Hall at Lake Bailey, with viewing of the comet following. The photo below shows a small "advance group" setting up for lectures and presentations for the very first public weekend, held at Petit Jean State Park's Mather Lodge.
A small group of the M.A.R.S. organization take time from setting up the first "Welcome Back Halley's" weekend.
To the general public, sighting of Halley's Comet was very likely a disappointment after all the hype and advanced publicity surrounding the return visit for 1985. The poor sighting of the comet was due to many factors: some deterioration of the comet, light pollution which did not exist in its previous visit in 1910, and large increases in atmospheric smog and pollution. But just to have the opportunity to have a once-in-a-lifetime glimpse of this most famous of all celestial objects was inspiration and reward enough for all who witnessed the return in 1986.
To all of our young and enthusiastic astronomers of today: best of success and rewards with your sightings of Halley's in 2062.