Comets have, through the centuries, appeared in numerous works of fiction. In earliest times they were seen as portents, either of disaster or of some great historical change. As knowledge of comets increased, comets came to be imagined not just as symbols, but as powerful forces in their own right, capable of causing disaster. More recently, comets have been described as destinations for space travelers.
As supernatural signs
- Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis' Lettre sur la comète (1742) mentions:
- « Ces astres, après avoir été si longtemps la terreur du monde, sont tombés tout à coup dans un tel discrédit, qu'on ne les croit plus capables de causer que des rhumes. »
- Roughly translated: « These stars, after having been the terror of the world for such a long time, have suddenly fallen in such discredit that they are not thought to be able to cause anything but colds. »
- In George R. R. Martin's A Clash of Kings, a comet with a red tail is seen in the sky and interpreted as both an ill omen or a fortuitous one by the various characters and factions in the book.
- In E. R. Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros, a comet appears before the final battle before the walls of Carcë: "The same night there appeared in the sky impending over Carcë a blazing star with two bushes." Both sides in the conflict see it, "[a]nd King Gorice, sitting in his chamber with his baleful books, beheld that star and its fiery streamers, which the King rather noted than liked. For albeit he might not know of a certain what way that sign intended, yet was it apparent to one so deeply learned in nigromancy and secrets astronomical that this thing was fatal, being of those prodigies and ominous prognosticks which fore-run the tragical ends of noble persons and the ruins of states."
As destructive forces
- Voltaire, in his Lettre sur la prétendue comète (1773), comments ironically on the rumours of impending doom surrounding Lalande's presentation to the Académie des sciences of his "Réflexions sur les comètes qui peuvent approcher de la Terre".
- Poe's The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion (1839) is an end-of-the-world story involving a comet that steals the nitrogen from Earth's atmosphere, the remaining oxygen causing our fiery end.
- Camille Flammarion's La Fin du Monde (The End of the World, 1894) describes a 24th-century collision of a comet with Earth.
- Tove Jansson's Comet in Moominland (1946) depicts the world of the Moomins threatened by a fiery comet.
- Lucifer's Hammer (1977), a novel by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is an apocalyptic survival story featuring a comet impact on Earth.
- The Paramount/DreamWorks motion picture Deep Impact (1998) tells the story of a comet (fictional Wolf-Biederman) on a collision course with Earth, and focuses primarily on the emotional reactions of those who are affected by the impending disaster.
- MillenniuM MysteriuM (2012), an autobiographical work of reference by Ben Lux is a journey of discovery leading to a detailed examination of a long-period resonant comet fragments' imminent arrival across the third week of March 2013. The approach of these visitors can be seen below the constellation of Cepheus from the autumn equinox onwards
Of the past
Film and television
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Sozin's Comet passes every 100 years, grazing the upper atmosphere, and amplifies the power of Firebending immensely. Aang must defeat the Fire Lord before the Comet's arrival, otherwise the world would be left beyond repair.
- The 1978 TV movie A Fire in the Sky, starring Richard Crenna, depicts a comet that impacts Phoenix, Arizona.
- The plot of the film Maximum Overdrive (1986) involves radiation from the tail of a passing comet, causing every machine on Earth to come to life and become homicidal, although at the end of the film it is hinted that the phenomenon was caused by a UFO.
- In the TV series Millennium (1996), a fictional double-tailed comet, P1997 Vansen-West, features occasionally during the second season.
- In the Friends episode titled "The One Where They're Up All Night" (2001), Ross Geller takes the group on the roof of their apartment to view the Bapstein/King comet.
- Comet Yano-Moore is a fictional comet invented for the BBC science fiction series Space Odyssey: Voyage To The Planets (2004) and named after and as a tribute to the British astronomer Patrick Moore and the Japanese astronomer Hajime Yano.
- In the film Night of the Comet, the Earth passes through the tail of a comet, dooming all human and animal life except for those who happened to be completely enclosed inside metal containers at the time of the rendezvous.
- In The Simpsons episode "Bart's Comet", a comet that Bart discovers is going to collide with Springfield. However, it breaks up on contact with Springfield's densely polluted atmosphere.
- In Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, the Power Rangers use a comet to defeat Ivan Ooze.
- In an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise, a shuttlecraft evades defense forces on Mars by hiding behind an impacting comet.
- In the world of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1986, 2005, 2009), Sigmar's Comet is a twin-tailed comet which has been sighted on multiple occasions throughout history, always heralding great or tumultuous events. In Sigmarite theology, it represents destiny, fate, and the hand of Sigmar acting upon the world; as a very popular symbol for religious Sigmarites, it is found on buildings, in religious mosaics and relics, on weapons and medals, and so forth.
- In the fictional world of Myth (1997), featured in the Bungie made computer game of the same name, every thousand years the world moves from an age of light, to an age of darkness and vice-versa, brought about by war. Every time this has happened, a great comet has been observed in the sky.
- In the game Shadow the Hedgehog (2005), a special comet holding the game's main enemies (the black arms) is the black comet. It is used to spread a gas across the planet that paralyses any non-black arm so the spawn can eat them.
- In Super Mario Galaxy (2008), the character Rosalina uses a comet-like building to travel the universe.
- In Final Fantasy VII (1997), The Final Boss Safer Sephiroth uses the summon Super Nova. The Animation for the summon has a comet that slowly works its way through the galaxy destroying all the planets in orbit, missing the Earth and striking the Sun. The explosion from the impact causes the Sun to explode, dealing damage to the players party members.
- In Illusion of Gaia, comets have their own mythology, once used by ancient civilizations to accelerate the evolution of mankind and other planets, before eventually becoming abused into weapons of war through using them to mutate monsters. One such comet is bound for an Earth still in an age similar to that of the Age of Discovery, being the main conflicting force and a play onto the comet's own calamitous symbolism.
As the first-discovered periodic comet, and the best known by name, Halley's Comet has a prominent place in fiction:
- In Heart of the Comet, a 1986 novel by Gregory Benford and David Brin, a multinational team colonizes Halley's Comet, building a habitat within the ice.
- Arthur C. Clarke's novel 2061: Odyssey Three (1987) includes a detailed description of a manned mission to Halley's Comet.
- Spider Robinson's short story "The Gifts of the Magistrate" deals with the trial of a woman who altered the orbit of Halley's Comet to try to save the life of her friend Clement Samuels, who believed that he, like Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain), having been born during one appearance of the comet, was doomed to die during the next.
- In the 1966 episode of the TV series The Time Tunnel, titled "End of the World", the main characters time travel back to 1910 and witness the hysteria generated by the comet. Interestingly, the episode portrays the people afraid of a collision with the comet rather than the "poison gas" from the comet's tail.
- In the Futurama episode "A Taste of Freedom", it is mentioned that Earth once fought a war "to take back Halley's Comet". Comet Halley has also been mined for water ice in another episode.
- The Doctor Who serial "Attack of the Cybermen" features the titular villains planning to devastate Earth by steering the comet into the planet.
- In an episode of the Nickelodeon TV series Hey Arnold!, Arnold and Gerald urge the city to turn off the lights so they can see the comet.
- In "Comet Watch", a 1986 episode of Tales from the Darkside, Englebert Ames, an astronomer, is watching Halley's Comet and is in for a shock when Sir Edmond Halley himself arrives - he's been riding "his" comet all these years trying to elude Sarah, the woman pursuing him out of obsessed love.
- In The Simpsons episode "Bart the Mother", Homer claims to remember the collision of Halley's Comet with the Moon.
- In the 2005 South Korean film Heaven's Soldiers (Korean: "Cheon gun"), the appearance of Halley's Comet causes the protagonists - North and South Korean soldiers engaged in a life-and-death struggle - to go back to 1572, the time of the comet's earlier passage, and become involved in heroic phases of 16th Century Korean history.
- In Famicom game Jesus: Dreadful Bio-Monster, Halley's Comet has been approaching Earth for quite some time, and the nations of Earth send a mission to investigate the Comet, as some form of life has been detected inside the gas of the comet.
- In the computer game Shadow of the Comet, the passing of the Comet, combined with a special vantage point, is the only time (presumably) certain entities can be summoned.