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NASA calls Comets Dirty SnowballsNASA helps define comets as cosmic snowballs, which are made of frozen gases, rock and dust. A comet is about the size of a small town. Comets spew dust and gas as they approach the sun and heat up. This makes the comet glow and creates a tail that can measure millions of kilometers long. Due to the composition of a comet, they are given the nickname “dirty snowballs.”
Short Period Comets Come From the Kuiper Belt
Short period comets are those that orbit the sun in 200 years or less. Short period comets come from the Kuiper Belt. The Halley comet is one of the best known short period comets, and the first to be identified as such. Halley’s Comet has an orbit of 76 years.
Long Period Comets Come From the Oort Cloud
Comets facts tell us that long period comets are believed to come from the Oort Cloud. They have an orbit of over 200 years. Most long period comets have only been spotted once, and their orbital time has yet to be established.
Comets Have an AtmosphereA comet has three parts – the nucleus, the coma and the tail. The nucleus is the main body of the comet. It contains all the frozen gases, rock and dust. When the sun warms up the nucleus, it develops an atmosphere, which is called a coma. As the comet orbits, it streams a trail of dust and gas. This is the tail of the comet. When the sun reflects off these particles, it can create the illusion of a huge ball of light with a tail.
Comets Are Made up of Astronomical Leftovers
Comets are made up of the leftovers from the dawn of the solar system about 4.6 billion years ago. They are generally coated in ice and composed of the same gas, rocks and dust that formed the rest of our planetary system. Comets facts indicate that, because of this, many scientists believe comets may provide some information about the beginnings of our little bit of the universe.
Comets Probably Can’t Support Life
Evidence suggests that comets may not be able to support life, but it’s possible they’ve played an important role in helping life evolve elsewhere. One theory is that comets may have brought water and other matter to Earth during collisions.
Rosetta Comet Probe Was First to Orbit a CometLaunched in March 2004 by the European Space Agency, comets facts show the Rosetta comet probe became the first to orbit a comet, in 2014. Rosetta flew by Mars and a couple of comets as it made its way through space to Comet 67-P. It has provided a lot of insight into comets.
The Philae Lander Was First to Touchdown on a Comet
The Philae Lander was part of the Rosetta comet probe launched by the European Space Agency in March 2004. On November 12 2014, the Philae Lander became the first to touchdown on a comet.
The Surface of Comets May Be Free of Ice
Though comets are partly composed of ice, the Rosetta probe recently provided photographs of Comet 67P, also known as C-6, showing there is no ice on the surface of the comet itself, just inside. The comet was warmer than scientists expected, though still well below freezing temperature.
Comet C-6 Can Fill Your Swimming Pool
Comet C-6 has a body that is about 2.5 miles long. When the sun heats its surface, it expels water (as a gas). But just how much water? Researchers have learned that Comet C-6 expels enough water in 100 days to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. This isn’t just an exciting fact if you enjoy swimming, however. Comet facts show that this information, which researchers learned from the Rosetta comet probe, could actually shed light on the origins of life on Earth.
The Perseid Meteor Shower Is a Result of a CometThe Perseid Meteor Shower occurs every August. You might be surprised to learn that this annual astronomical event is actually due to a comet. When the Earth crosses the orbit of the Swift-Tuttle comet in August, we’re treated to a beautiful space show thanks to the trail of the debris the comet leaves in its wake.
Twain’s Life and Death was Marked by Halley’s Comet
Mark Twain has the interesting distinction of having been born shortly after the Halley’s Comet visit of 1835. Alone, this fact is unremarkable, but Twain actually predicted he would leave this earth with it, too. Twain died the day after the comet returned in 1910.
The Epic of Gilgamesh Described Ruin Thanks to a Comet
The Epic of Gilgamesh dates back to 2100 BC. It detailed the sight of a comet in the sky and the subsequent turmoil on Earth involving flood, fire and brimstone.
Nero Feared the Omen of a Comet
Unfortunately for a few Romans, Nero believed a comet was a bad omen. He feared the safety of his reign, and killed his successors in attempt to stave off the bad luck.
Halley’s Comet Has Been Spotted Throughout History
Halley’s comet has been mentioned throughout history. Comets facts tell us that once scientists discovered its orbit, they were able to search back through the history books and find mentions of the comet. Records exist of the comet’s appearances by the Chinese, Babylonians, and medieval Europeans. The earliest reference seems to be from 240 BC. Because of its short orbit, Halley’s has become an iconic comet.
Game of Thrones Used Comet as a Sign
Perhaps drawing from history, Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin used the comet as a sign of change and upheaval in his Song of Ice and Fire fantasy series, as well in the HBO TV series. Such pop culture references show how comets continue to fascinate us.
There are 5,253 Known Comets
There are at least 5,253 known comets, but many more are believed to exist. The Oort Cloud, located on the outer edges of our Solar System, is hypothesized to be home to an estimated one trillion comets.
Deep Impact Created a Crater on a Comet
The 2005 Deep Impact mission lead by NASA was meant to study the composition of comet Tempel 1. Comets facts indicate it created a crater on the surface of the nucleus that was 328 feet wide and 98 feet deep. Scientist used data gleaned from the Deep Impact mission to determine several things about comets, including that the Tempel 1 comet appeared to be 75% empty space.
Comets Facts – Facts about Comets Summary
Comets are beautiful astronomical visions comprised of three parts: a nucleus, a coma and a tail. The nucleus of the comet is filled with frozen gases, dust and rock, which are released during orbit to create the coma (atmosphere) and tail. Halley’s comet is one of the most famous comets. It’s been spotted throughout history, as early as 240 BC. The Philae Lander of the European Space Agency’s Rosetta mission was the first to successfully land on a comet.