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Comets come from the outback of the Solar System. Icy remnants left behind from the formation of the Sun and planets.

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Comets come from the outback of the Solar System. Icy remnants left behind from the formation of the Sun and planets, they are the most beautiful of all. Bright comets have been noted throughout history, instilling a variety of emotions including fear, awe and gladness.

It was once believed that comets were harbingers of disaster which moved within Earth's atmosphere. Wars, plagues, famine and death have been blamed on comets. It is hard to imagine how such a beautiful object gracing our skies could be associated with such evil.

The great astronomer Tycho Brahe discovered that comets were beyond Earth's orbit in 1577. He spent years making observations and finally concluded that since the comets did not show a parallax (an apparent displacement of an object against the background stars when viewed from different locations) when viewed from different locations on Earth. Tycho estimated that the comets were at least three times farther away than the Moon.

Though dozens of new comets are discovered each year, it is rare for naked eye comets to appear. We have been treated to two such comets this decade, Hyakutake in 1996 and Hale-Bopp in 1997. Hale-Bopp may well be considered the comet of the century.

Not long ago, many people thought that comets were a sign that something bad was about to happen to them. People didn't understand about how objects in the sky moved, so the sight of a comet must have been very disturbing. There are many historical records and works of art which record the appearance of comets and link them with terrible events such as wars or plagues.

Now we know that comets are lumps of ice and rock that periodically come into the center of the solar system from somewhere in its outer reaches, and that some comets make repeated trips. When comets get close enough to the Sun, heat makes them start to evaporate. Jets of gas and dust form long tails that we can see from Earth. These tails can sometimes be millions of miles long.

Views of some Comets


hale bopp

This is a full view of the Comet Hale-Bop.



This image shows the ray structure of Halley's Comet.



Comet Hyakutake (C/1996 B2) was the one of the best comets of all time. On its way towards perihelion, Comet Hyakutake passed within 0.1 AU of Earth on 1996 March 25.3 UT. This is the closest approach of a comet since 1983. The comet was large and bright for a few days close to this date, sporting a tail about 40 degrees long. A totally unforgetable sight.



Orbits Of Three Comets around Our Sun


Comets Names

Arend-Roland Bennett Biela Borrelly Brorsen-Metcalf
Grigg-Skjellerup d'Arrest Donati Encke Giacobini-Zinner
Chiron Hale-Bopp Halley Hyakutake Ikeya-Seki
IRAS-Araki Alcock Kohoutek Lexell Linear
Morehouse Mrkos Schwassmann-Wachmann Shoemaker-Levy 9 Swift-Tuttle
Tempel 1 Tempel 2 West Wild 2 Wirtanen

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