100 Interesting Facts About Comets

Facts About Comet: Comets are members of the solar system made up of ice and dust. The orbit of a comet is an extremely long subring. Hence they also exceed the orbit of Pluto. Comets are usually composed of: frozen carbon dioxide, methane, water, dust, and many minerals. Comets originate from the Oort Cloud at the end of the Solar System. The Oort cloud is said to be made up of remnants of the formation of the Solar System. Asteroids are formed in different ways. But sometimes comets end up with their combustible elements and become asteroids.

100 Interesting Facts About Comets

Interesting Facts About Comets

  • Comet orbits are usually elliptical.
  • All comets in our solar system orbit the sun.
  • The “coma” is the dust and gas surrounding the nucleus.
  • Halley’s comet is estimated to appear again in July of 2061.
  • There are 6,619 known comets in our solar system as of July 2019.
  • Comets can shed bits of rock that fall to earth as meteor showers.
  • The nucleus of a comet contains the vast majority of its total mass.
  • The second tail of a comet can stretch to roughly 360 million miles.
  • The tail of a comet is part of the coma blowing away from the nucleus.
  • Over 3,000 comets are known to exist in our solar system at this time.
  • It is unknown at this time what lies beneath the ice of a comet nucleus.
  • The first comet to be observed was around 500 B.C. by Greek philosophers.
  • A comet has four components: a nucleus, a coma, a dust tail and an ion tail.
  • A comet is small solar system body, made up of ice, dust and rocky material.
  • Comets only reflect 4% of the light that falls on them, the rest is absorbed.
  • The Ion tail of a comet is the result of Solar winds blowing against the comet.
  • A short-period comet takes less than 200 years to complete an orbit of our sun.
  • Halley’s enters the inner solar system every 76 Earth years & is one of the most famous.
  • A long-period comet can take thousands to millions of years to complete an orbit of our sun.

Scientific Facts About Comets

  • When comets pass near our sun, they release gases as they warm up, this is called outgassing.
  • We may see the yellow tail that follows a comet, but ionized gas gives a comet a second, blue, tail.
  • Comets can hit our planet, the last comet to strike Earth happened an estimated 28 million years ago.
  • Many comets formed in the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belts, two of the outermost regions of the solar system.
  • The dust in a comet’s tail reflects the light from the sun, which is how they appear so bright in the sky.
  • The ion tail of a comet is the result of solar winds that blow the gas particles directly away from the Sun.
  • Notable comets include Comet Hale-Bopp, which was discovered in 1995 and Comet Hyakutake, discovered in 1996.
  • A comet’s dust tail is a trail of dust and rocky material that is left behind as it moves along its orbit path.
  • When a comet is outgassing it creates a coma, also known as a tail. This is the long stream you see behind a comet.
  • The closest point in a comet’s orbit to the Sun is called “perihelion”. The most distant point is called “aphelion”.
  • There are over 3,000 currently known comets. Scientists believe that there be up to one billion comets in our solar system.
  • The nucleus of a comet is made of ice and can be as small as a few meters across to giant boulders a few kilometres across.
  • A comets center or nucleus is made of ice and vary greatly in size per comet, ranging from a few meters, to kilometers wide.
  • Travelling through a comet’s tail is not dangerous. Earth even passes through them. When this happens, we see a meteor shower!

Awesome Facts About Comets

  • Comets orbit the Sun in elliptical paths – just like the planets. The path of a comet though is far more elliptical than that of any planet.
  • When our planet passes through the tail of a comet, we get a meteor shower, which is the debris from the tail entering the Earth’s atmosphere.
  • Sometimes comets are referred to as “dirty snowballs” or “cosmic snowballs”. This is because they are composed mostly of ice, rock, gas and dust.
  • The word comet comes from the Greek word Kometes meaning long hair. This is because of how a comet’s tail can look like long flowing locks of hair.
  • Comets are not spaceships or alien bases. They are fascinating bits of solar system material that date back to the formation of the Sun and planets.
  • While a comet itself is relativity small, on average only 10 miles across, the tail of a comet can be up to 15 times longer than the Earth’s diameter.
  • Comets are being produced by two regions of the outer Solar System: The Kuiper Belt and The Oort Cloud. The Oort Cloud is further out than the Kuiper Belt.
  • A great comet is one which is bright enough to be visible from Earth without the need for a telescope. Approximately one great comet happens every ten years.
  • Comets have two tails: a dust tail (which you can see with the naked eye) and a plasma tail, which is easily photographed but difficult to see with your eyes.
  • The Kuiper Belt is ring of dormant comets located just beyond the orbit of Neptune. The comets originating here have orbits lasting hundreds of years or fewer.
  • Comets are believed to originate in one of two regions – the theorized Oort Cloud, or the Kuiper Belt found beyond the orbit of Neptune and the dwarf planet Pluto.
  • The Hale-Bopp comet was discovered in the year 1995 by Alan Hale from New Mexico and Thomas Bopp from Arizona, while it was passing just out of reach of Jupiter’s orbit.
  • Material streams from comets and populates the comet’s orbit. If Earth (or another planet) happens to move through that stream, those particles fall to Earth as meteor showers.

Unknown Facts About Comets

  • Comets are usually made of frozen water and supercold methane, ammonia and carbon dioxide ices. Those are mixed with rock, dust, and other metallic bits of solar system debris.
  • Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 is just one of the comets in our solar system, not quite as famous as Halley, but in 1993, Shoemaker-Levy 9 broke into pieces which scattered over Jupiter.
  • A comet’s path of orbit around the sun is different from a planet’s. A planet usually orbits the sun in a circular path. However, a comet usually orbits the sun in an elliptical path. 
  • It is believed that the first comet was seen in 500 B.C., and Greek philosophers named it ‘komotes’, which means ‘long haired’. Comets were first recorded by Chinese astronomers in 239 BC.
  • Comets have a halo when they move close to the Sun. What happens is the solar radiation vaporizes the ice and gas gas in the comet into a halo around it. The halo is known as the comets coma.
  • Comets used to fill people with fear. That fear inspired businessmen to market ridiculous products to sell to those that feared comets, such as: umbrellas, gas masks, and even “Anti-comet” pills.
  • Most comets come from one of the two regions. Scientists and astrophysicists believe that most comets come from either the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt. These are found beyond Neptune and Pluto.
  • The most famous comet is Halley’s Comet. It has been observed since at least 240 B.C. Its orbit makes it visible from Earth every 76 years. It was named after the British astronomer Edmond Halley.
  • There are millions of comets, and they are all orbiting the Sun. Most take less than two hundred years to do so, and others travel much slower, potentially taking millions of years to complete an orbit.
  • No one knows what is inside a comet. While probes have landed on a comet, we do not know what the inner part of a comet consists of. The surface of the comet is so hard that it has not been penetrated yet.
  • A comet’s death can either be from crashing into something large, exploding from being torn apart by the sun’s gravity, or “going extinct” by losing volatile materials and becoming really small lumps of rock.

Cool Facts About Comets

  • Like asteroids, comets are leftovers from the formation of the Solar System. We don’t know an awful lot about them at this point, but scientists believe they may hold clues to how the Solar System came to be.
  • Meteor showers, or shooting stars, are also caused by comets. When a comet passes close to the earth, it can break down into large pieces. These pieces are pulled by Earth’s gravity, giving us a ‘meteor shower’.
  • The Hyakutake comet is most famous because it passed just 15 million kilometres away from Earth – the closest any comet has come. It was observed in March 1996 and had a tail of at least 570 million kilometres long!
  • Comets lose mass each time they get close to the sun due to a process called sublimation. After many years of circling the sun, the comet will eventually break apart from being so small and moving at such a great speed.
  • Comets can die as well. They can become extinct or explode if they lose their volatile material that is responsible for the comet burning. So, if there is no volatile material, then the comet becomes a normal lump of rock. 
  • There are over 3,700 comets. According to NASA, there are currently 3,743 comets that have been spotted. Some of these are spotted regularly – like Halley’s comet – while some were last seen when dinosaurs inhabited the earth!
  • Shoemaker Levy-9’s comet is most famous because it broke into 21 pieces due to Jupiter’s gravity. This was recorded by various telescopes around the world and the Galileo probe (spacecraft) that orbited around the planet in 1992.
  • The Oort cloud is an outer region of the Solar System 50,000-150,00 times the distance from the Sun to Earth that is believed to contain dormant comets. Some of the comets that originate here have orbits lasting millions of years.
  • If the same comet had been observed by two people, then the name of the comet involves both of their names. For example, Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp both saw the same comet and named it. As a result, the comet is now called Hale Bopp.
  • The surface of the comet is mostly made of ice! When observed, the surface of a comet is covered with ice. However, this ice is usually not made from water. Instead, it is made up of carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane, and other gases.
  • The sun can break a comet. The sun’s gravity is strong enough to reduce all the volatile material in the comet. In doing so, the sun can break the comet into many smaller pieces. This often happens if the comet comes close to the sun.
  • Comets are often called dirty snowballs. Since most comets are made of frozen gases, dust, and rocks, this name has become a common convention. The frozen gases often resemble ‘snow’ that is not pure white because of the rocks present.

Unbelievable Facts About Comets

  • Comets spend most of their years in the Kuiper belt and Oort cloud. Every now and again two comets can crash into one another. When this happened, they often change direction, and this can throw them out towards the inner solar system.
  • The first probe to land on a comet was in 2014! The Philae lander accomplished a landing on a comet in November 2014. The lander travelled for 10 years through the solar system before catching up with the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.
  • As a comet gets close to the Sun, it loses some of its mass due to the sublimation. If a comet goes around enough times, it will eventually break up. Comets also break up if they come TOO close to the Sun or another planet in their orbits.
  • Many comets don’t need telescopes to be seen. While some comets may pass as far as 500 million kilometres away from the earth, they can still be seen by the naked eye. This is possible if they have a large head that burns rapidly as it moves.
  • The ice that makes up the nucleus of a comet isn’t just frozen water like you might put in your summer drink, super cold methane, ammonia, and carbon dioxide ices are also in the mix, along with dust, rocks & other debris from the solar system.
  • Halley’s comet comes every 75 years. Named after Edmond Halley, the comet is seen once every 76 years. In fact, the comet has been spotted and recorded several times. It was seen in 1531, 1607, 1682, and 1758. It is expected to appear next in 2061.
  • Most comets have two tails. One of the tails can be seen with the naked eye and is called the dust tail. The second cannot be seen through the naked eye and is called the plasma tail. The plasma tail, however, can be seen in high-definition photographs.
  • The Hale-Bopp comet was discovered separately by Alan Hale and Thomas Bopp on July 23rd, 1995. This comet is one of the most widely observed comets of the 20th century. It’s also considered one of the brightest comets to visit the vicinity of Earth in decades.
  • The Hale Bopp comet was seen for two years. Comet Hale Bopp was the closest to Earth in 1997. This planet was last seen near earth in the Bronze Age, i.e., around 2000 BC! In fact, this comet was so large that it was visible to the naked eye for almost 2 years!
  • It is believed that a comet smashed on earth, in the region that is now part of the Sahara desert. This was confirmed by tiny pebbles found in the desert. In fact, scientists believe that these came from the core. However, this incident happened over 28 million years ago.
  • As a comet gets closer to the Sun, it begins to experience heat. That causes some of its ices to sublimate (similar to dry ice sizzling in sunlight). If the ice is close to the comet’s surface, it may form a small “jet” of material spewing out from the comet like a mini-geyser.
  • Each comet has its own unique atmosphere. Just like the earth’s atmosphere is made from oxygen and nitrogen, each comet’s atmosphere is made from gases. It is unique to each comet. The atmosphere can grow and diminish depending upon the size of the comet and where it’s travelling.
  • The most famous comet of all time is Halley’s Comet. Halley is a periodic comet and is visible from Earth every 76 years and has been for centuries. It made its last appearance in 1986. Other famous comets include the Hale-Bopp Comet, Donati’s comet and the Shoemaker-Levy 9 Comet.
  • The Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet gave astronomers a front row seat to the first impact event of solar system objects. In July 1994, astronomers got to witness the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet impact the planet Jupiter. It’s estimated that the impact energy was equal to six million megatons of TNT.
  • Halley’s comet is one of the most famous comets throughout human history. It was observed by Edmond Halley in 1531, 1607 and 1682. It’s considered a periodic comet and is within the vicinity of Earth every 75 years. It was last in the vicinity of Earth in 1986 and will return around 2061.
  • Comets can be as large as a town. While comets can be of any size, most comets are the size of a small town, with their diameter in kilometres. In fact, small comets usually burn before they are visible, making it impossible to notice them. As a result, they are often characterised as debris.
  • Comets come from the Kuiper belt and the Oort Cloud. These areas of space are way out in the solar system far away from the Sun. The Oort cloud is so far away we have never even seen it! The comets visible from Earth are most likely ones that came from the closer Kuiper belt which is near Pluto.
  • When a comet approaches the inner planets, it is warmed by the Sun. When this happens, it begins to melt and throws out dust and gas. This creates a head and the tail. The tail is the part of the comet we see in the sky. The tail always points away from the Sun. This means that sometimes the tail is behind the comet and sometimes it in front. It all depends on whether the comet is travelling towards or away from the Sun.

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