All About Comets

All About Comets

Comets are gigantic objects made up of rocky dust, snow, and ice that travel on very long orbits around the Sun.

The comets travel in vast orbits around the Sun in a enormous, ball shaped place, called the Oort cloud, with billions and billions of other comets. This stretches all the way around the Solar System, way beyond Pluto.

On Earth we can only see comets when they leave the Oort Cloud.

Comets are the leftovers from the beginning of the Solar System.

When a comet leaves the Oort cloud and gets closer to the Sun, it starts spewing dust and gas, it gets brighter an increases in size and then a forms a head and tails.

Comets have been given a nickname of dirty snowballs.

Comets have such vast space in the Oort Cloud that they get no closer to each other than we on Earth do to the Sun.

The first person to realize that comets orbit the Sun was Edmond Halley in 1664, while looking through his dads telescope.

The most famous and talked about comet is Halley’s comet, named after the first person to witness it, Edmond Halley. He developed an obsession with star gazing as a young man and ended up studying the sky for most of his entire life.

Like most comets, Halley’s comet is made of ice, dust and gas.

Halley’s comet is the only known comet that we can see from Earth with the Naked eye.

In 1705, Edmond Halley realized that the comet that appeared in the night sky in the years 1531, 1607 and 1682, was actually the same comet that orbited the Earth every 76 years.  He predicted it would appear again in 1758, but unfortunately he did not live long enough to see its return, as he died in 1742. His discovery inspired others to name the comet after him.

Halley’s comet is still appearing in the night sky every 76 years. The last time it traveled by Earth was in 1986, while its next visit is due in 2061.

In 1950, an astronomer named Jan Oort predicted that there was an enormous ball shaped cloud of comets surrounding the Sun reaching out further than the Kuiper Belt. He was proved right and in his honor it was named the Oort Cloud.

On March 2nd, 2004, the European Space Agency launched the space probe, Rosetta. 10 years later, it went on to orbit around a comet, named the 67p/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. It dropped a lander, named Philae on the comet, which was the first human made craft to ever land on a comet.

Unfortunately the way it landed on the surface, the solar panels couldn’t get any power, so poor Philae is still asleep on the comet. Rosetta’s final act was to photograph itself coming into land on the comet.

Greek philosopher, Aristotle, gave comets their name from the Greek word “kometes”, meaning “long-haired”.

A comet called the Shoemaker Levy 9 crashed into Jupiter in 1994, causing a week long fireworks show.

The head that appears on a comet as it gets nearer the Sun is called a Coma.

Comets are divided into two groups, the first type is the short period comet, and the second type is called the long period comet, the short types originate from the Kuiper Belt while scientists believe the long period comets come from the Oort cloud.