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Comets in Space

Comet Hale-Bopp (from Croatia)Comets have fascinated mankind since the dawn of time. Probably the most famous one in modern times is Halley's Comet, which comes back to our skies every 75-76 years. Other recent notable comets include Comet Hyakutake in 1996, Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997, Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 whose fragments hit Jupiter in 1994, and Comet McNaught in 2007 (brightly visible in the southern hemisphere).

So what is a comet? In space, comets are small chunks of mostly ice and frozen gases. When a comet gets too close to the sun, it sublimates, creating a long, fuzzy tail. Our solar system is full of them - several thousand are known with more found all the time. Some pass close to the sun every few years, while others only every few hundred thousand years, and a few only pass by once and then leave the solar system entirely.

In the articles below, learn more about comets in general and specific comets, and the study of comets in astronomy both historically and today, with current missions like NASA's Stardust and ESA's Rosetta.

(Comet Hale-Bopp picture by Philipp Salzgeber, used under CC-BY-SA-2.0-AT license)

Latest Articles on Comet
Well Known Female Astronomers to Learn About

There have been many important female astronomers. Women astronomers have helped expand our frontiers by being the first to discover how to calculate the distance to far away galaxies...

Nothing but the Facts About Halley's Comet

In the world of comets, Halley's Comet stands out for more reasons than one. Besides its visibility and relatively short orbital period, many facts about Halley's comet have...

The Rosetta Mission (Part 1): History and Mission Objectives

With the successful Giotto mission to Halley’s Comet it was necessary for follow-on missions, therefore, the Rosetta mission was intended to study more about comets and unlock...

About the Comet Hartely 2, The 103P Hartley

The 103p Hartley 2, better known as Comet Hartley 2, was recently visited by the Deep Impact probe on it's EPOXI mission to explore space. During this flyby, some of the most interesting...

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    Nothing but the Facts About Halley's Comet

    In the world of comets, Halley's Comet stands out for more reasons than one. Besides its visibility and relatively short orbital period, many facts about Halley's comet have been observed by -...

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    Nothing but the Facts about Charles Messier

    Charles Messier, the great French astronomer of the 18th century compiled the greatest catalog of celestial objects of the time. The Messier reference is still used today for many of these objects....

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    Well Known Female Astronomers to Learn About

    There have been many important female astronomers. Women astronomers have helped expand our frontiers by being the first to discover how to calculate the distance to far away galaxies, among other firsts...

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    Newton’s Laws and How They Apply to Astronomy

    Even though deduced in the 17th century, Newton's first, second, and third laws of motion, plus his law of gravitation are extremely important to astronomers today in the research they conduct to understand...

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    Edmund Halley: Facts and Discoveries

    Edmund Halley was best known for identifying the correct period of time for the return of what would become known as Halley's Comet. Among his other studies, he observed stars and planetary motion...

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Dirty Snowballs: Learning About a Short Period Comet

Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no, it’s a dirty snowball? Dirty snowballs, better known as comets, are fascinating objects that have been...

Nothing But the Facts About Comets

What are comets? Where do they come from and how often do they visit? Read the answers to these questions and more in this article all about comets....