What is a comet? (with photos)

Comets are rarely seen with the naked eye.

A comet is a small astral body, similar in construction to a planet. Its orbit can sometimes bring it closer to the sun and make it visible to the naked eye, or through relatively low-strength telescopes, from Earth. When one can be seen, it is usually noted to have a tail, made of gases, which early astronomers used to mistake for a shooting star.

A comet’s tail is known as a coma.

Most observable comets in our solar system derive from the Oort Cloud, a hypothetical cloud made up of the sun’s debris. These materials form comets, which orbit the sun because they are affected by its gravitational pull. As it passes individual planets, the comet can be affected by the gravitational forces of the planets, thus causing an elliptical or oval orbit.

Some comets are observed through orbiting telescopes.

Normally, people on Earth see these astral bodies as they pass between the Earth and the sun. The comet and its tail, sometimes called the coma and tail, are thought to reflect sunlight, increasing its visibility. Because comets can orbit the sun in strange patterns, people can only see one pass in a lifetime.

In fact, comets are generally classified by the time they take to orbit the sun. A short period takes about 200 years to make a complete trip around the sun. A long-period comet can take much longer to complete a trip.

For example, Halley’s Comet can be seen from Earth every 75 years, which makes it part of the short-period class. Its last sighting on Earth was in 1986 and it is expected to be seen again in 2061.

See also  What is guanine?

A low-resistance telescope can help a person see a comet, although most can be seen with the naked eye.

A planet can capture a comet, which can cause significant damage to the astral body. This gravitational capture can cause it to break into many small pieces, which can then hit the planet being captured. Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 was observed as broken up in 1993, and astronomers were able to witness it hitting Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1994.

Most of the time, people looking at the night sky may think they see “shooting stars” that are actually meteors or comets. There are thousands of tiny ones that don’t attract much interest. Once-in-a-lifetime comets like Halley’s are often considered exciting, as most people only see them with the naked eye once.

Leave a Comment