Icy bodies that usually consist of methane, water, and other materials that originate from beyond the jovian planets, and occasionally fall into the inner solar system giving off a massive tail as material is boiled off.

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22
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4answers
11k views

What's the fastest moving object in the universe?

We know that nothing can have proper velocities larger than the speed of light in vacuum. But are there any objects in space that get close to it? Any comets, or other objects thrown by gravity or ...
15
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1answer
418 views

Why did the Comet Shoemaker-Levy-9 fragments cause such large explosions on Jupiter?

In July 1994, the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 (D/1993 F2) tidally fragmented and these fragments collided into Jupiter, as per the image below. Image source The question is, what mechanisms resulted in ...
14
votes
1answer
172 views

How often do comets survive passage by the Sun?

I had heard that comet ISON might not survive a close pass by our Sun, and I was curious about the odds of how other comets had fared. So, how often do other comets survive a close pass by our sun? ...
12
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1answer
231 views

Have we ever observed a body, such as a large asteroid, “hitting” the Sun?

Some other SE questions about launching ICBM's into the sun got me wondering whether we have ever observed an object on a path that intersected with the Sun? How close did it get?
10
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1answer
1k views

Why do comets appear to have a continuous supply of dust?

Comets orbiting the sun have a tail that points away from the Sun, due to the solar wind. (Strictly speaking, a comet can have both a type I tail - ion tail, and a type II tail - a dust tail. This ...
10
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3answers
414 views

What is the difference between asteroids, comets and meteors?

Some celestial objects seem to be referred to as asteroids, some as comets, and some as meteors or meteorites. What is the distinction between all of these different objects? Are any of them the ...
9
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1answer
159 views

Did a piece of Halley's comet strike the Earth 1,500 years ago?

A friend showed me an article saying that there's evidence that a piece of Halley's comet may have struck the earth about 1,500 years ago. Is anyone here aware of such evidence?
8
votes
2answers
980 views

Can two comets travel together as one?

If two comets come together in space, will they bounce apart, merge into a single body, or could they travel together through space, either touching or orbiting a shared center of gravity?
8
votes
2answers
559 views

Why all the photos from 67p are black and white?

I was wondering why every picture we saw on internet about Rosetta's landing on 67p just black and white ? Is there something i should know ?
8
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1answer
44 views

Long term development of Comets

When an exocomet passes by our Sun in a trajectory that leads it to establish a Solar Orbit what eventually happens to it? In addition to its original inertia and vector being altered what are the ...
8
votes
1answer
118 views

Is it accurate to compare comets to clouds and rain?

I'm trying to avoid an opinion-based question, so before I outline the comparison I'm proposing, I will qualify the specific facts that yield this comparison. By focusing answers on the relative ...
7
votes
3answers
1k views

What is a dead comet?

How is a Dead Comet different from the normal comet? How are they formed? And why is the Halloween asteroid 2015 TB145 called a dead comet?.
7
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1answer
196 views

What caused the comet ISON to disintegrate?

So curious to know why comet ISON disintegrated? Well, it went near the Sun but was the Sun the only reason it died? Or is there any other reason for it's fading away?
7
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1answer
95 views

Could the trajectories of non-periodic comets be used to infer properties of the 'ninth planet'?

Non-periodic comets are comets which have very long orbital periods (>200 years or more), spending most of their time in the outer solar system. Planet X, recently revived by researchers at Caltech, ...
7
votes
1answer
59 views

How frequently does a comet drastically change its orbit in the Solar System (like 67P did in 1959)?

Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko flew by Jupiter at only 0.05 AU distance in 1959. This encounter lowered its perihelion from 2.7 to 1.3 AU (almost becoming an Earth crossing comet). Since it happens ...
6
votes
1answer
240 views

How can Halley's Comet be predictable?

How can we know that Halley's Comet is going to come again every 76 years? I understand that the comet has an orbit around the sun but how can scientists know that it won't be thrown off course for ...
6
votes
2answers
142 views

Could the Philae comet lander be recharged by laser?

Could the Philae comet lander be recharged with a laser (or possibly many lasers) from earth? My thought would be to aim one or more powerful lasers from earth at the Philae lander to recharge it ...
6
votes
1answer
148 views

How often are new astronomical objects (variable stars, supernovae, comets, etc) discovered by amateurs?

How often are new astronomical objects (variable stars, supernovae, comets, etc) discovered by amateurs? Where could one report new findings?
6
votes
1answer
271 views

What is the direction of a comet's dust tail before and after perihelion?

I recently created a visualisation of comet ISON's orbit. However, I received a critique that the dust tail of the comet should be pointing away from the Sun after perihelion. As far as I know, the ...
6
votes
1answer
191 views

Lack of planets in the Oort Cloud

With the current news about the possibility of a planet in the Oort cloud, I was thinking, why is the matter in the Oort cloud distributed so? It makes sense that inside the planet region there is not ...
5
votes
2answers
390 views

Why don't planets and asteroids have (cometary) tails?

Comets have tails. We all know that, and a lucky few have seen the better known. So why don't the planets (e.g. Earth, Mars) have tails? Why don't asteroids don't have tails?
5
votes
1answer
64 views

Why is Rosetta's Comet so “warm”?

Rosetta Comet AKA 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has the surface temperature range of -43 to -93 degree Celsius. Now, if we compare that with the Mercury (I chose Mercury cause it's closest to the Sun ...
5
votes
1answer
80 views

How big do comets get?

If my understanding is correct, Chury, the best explored comet so far is rather on the smallish side as comets go. Most comets observable with naked eye were so because they flew close to Earth, not ...
5
votes
2answers
71 views

What known comets are binary?

Many asteroids are today known to be binary, to have "moons". But what comets are known to be binary? Or what fraction of them are theoretically thought to be binary? And if possible, then separate ...
5
votes
1answer
72 views

Was comet ISON in a Kepler orbit prior to disintegrating?

Was comet ISON in a Kepler orbit prior to disintegrating? If so, it is possible over time that Kepler orbits can be altered by increases or decreases in the mass of of celestial bodies? For instance ...
5
votes
2answers
131 views

How does 67P rotate?

What can be said about 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko axial tilt? Is it fixed (if so, at what value), only changing with precession (at what rate?) or does 67P "tumble" with axial tilt changing over time? ...
5
votes
1answer
201 views

Can I see comet ISON from Saudi Arabia?

I live in western Saudi Arabia, I am trying to see the comet ISON, reading here and there tells that I can see it by naked eye somewhere next to the constellation leo, I used an app to tells me where ...
5
votes
0answers
64 views

Is Rosetta changing the theory of comets?

Rosetta is now arriving at Comet 67P. Other comets have been analyzed to some degree (Giotto, Deep Space 1, Deep Impact, etc.) So my question is... where I can study the up-to-date theory of ...
4
votes
4answers
116 views

Is it possible for a virus to come from a space rock?

So I am not a true scientist and I was just wondering if an extraterrestrial rock from space can have some dangerous unidentified virus or bacteria that can be deadly and wipe out the Earth if it not ...
4
votes
4answers
461 views

If the hammer and feather move at the same speed why do comet and the tail particles move at different speeds?

From this exhibition by an astronaut on the moon dropping a hammer and a feather and showing they move at the same speed, why do the particles of the comets tail move away from the comet, slow down ...
4
votes
2answers
145 views

How did water get on Earth

I recently read that water more then likely got here by comets (carrying water) hitting the Earth. However it also it says the impact of a comet hitting the Earth is much greater then an atomic bomb. ...
4
votes
1answer
93 views

How would a planetary defence against comets work?

Mappings of practically all potentially dangerous asteroids is well underway. But comets seem almost hopeless to protect against. How far away are approaching comets detected today? How long time ...
4
votes
2answers
81 views

Is there a mechanism that makes small moons more rounded than comets?

67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has a highly irregular dumbbell shape. But the sample of comet shapes observed is very small, so I wonder if irregular shape is the norm for comets and for small moons. Many ...
4
votes
1answer
43 views

Do sungrazing comets leave a field of meteoroids near the Sun?

A large fraction (a third?) of all comets found (with observational bias thanks to SOHO) have been sungrazers, breaking up with perihelion of a few of Sun's radius. Is there reason to believe that ...
3
votes
2answers
99 views

Is Mars expected to go through the tail of Comet Siding?

This question will likely be answered "in retrospect" in about 8 days. So it's a great opportunity to "lay it out there" and then let reality prove you right/wrong. On the 19th of October, Comet ...
3
votes
1answer
163 views

What's the estimated remaining life of Halley's Comet?

I know that Halley's comet is seen from Earth every 76 years or so since a couple centuries. As it travels, and particularly when it comes near the sun, it loses some of its material (ice). Someday, ...
3
votes
1answer
84 views

landing on a comet is more important than landing on an asteroid?

Philae landed on comet 67P this year. And it means a big breakthrough for the science and technology of human being. However Hayabusa mission of Japan not only landed on an asteroid but also returned ...
3
votes
1answer
74 views

Earth's Versus Catastrophic Meteor

How evasive is the Earth to Catastrophic Meteors? Google says the Earth is approximately 92.96 million miles from the Sun. It also says the suns radius is 432,474 miles. Therefore, it is 93,392,474 ...
3
votes
2answers
74 views

Is any meteorite known to come from a comet?

Comets are mostly icy but they should have some rocky components too, right? I wonder if there's any rocky piece of a former comet among collected meteorites. Is it possible today to identify a ...
3
votes
1answer
89 views

Why did Earth need material from comets to assemble the raw materials for life?

It's often speculated that matter from comets played a crucial role in the development of life on Earth. For example, Maps of Time says, Many of the ingredients of the early atmosphere (including ...
3
votes
1answer
100 views

Why does Jupiter break comets apart?

I understand that there are magnificent tidal forces that come with getting too close to Jupiter, but what is causing comets like Shoemaker-Levy to get torn apart? I wouldn't expect that the ...
3
votes
1answer
69 views

Leonid meteor showers and the Tempel-Tuttle comet

I've been reading about the Leonid meteor showers and am struggling to understand one piece of information. On Wikipedia (Tempel-Tuttle), it states: The orbit of 55P/Tempel–Tuttle intersects that ...
2
votes
1answer
67 views

Do/did the asteroids contain enough water to create Earth's oceans?

It seems from the recent Science paper by Altwegg et al (2014) that the commonly accepted source of Earth's water being the comets might not be (completely) true. Their study suggest that the water in ...
2
votes
1answer
74 views

Where is the materials of comet after it crashed into the sun?

If a comet crashes into the sun, where will the substance (eg: water,silicon) be? Will they be inside the sun? Or they will be ejected from sun again?
2
votes
1answer
736 views

Classification of a Comet

Google's definition of a comet is: a celestial object consisting of a nucleus of ice and dust and, when near the sun, a ‘tail’ of gas and dust particles pointing away from the sun. This ...
2
votes
1answer
34 views

What does oxygen on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko mean?

Recently, the Rosetta mission found oxygen on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. According to theories, oxygen should not be in the state in which it is on the comet. What are the previous theories ...
2
votes
1answer
40 views

Where does the dust on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko come from?

As we (laymen) are told, comets lose gas and dust when they descent into the denser regions of the solar system. Seemingly so much and so large parts that they can even cause meteor showers like in ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

Is C/2012 S1 (aka ISON) the fastest comet on record to-date?

This source may be nebulous (no pun intended!) for some. It writes to say Starting at around 95,000mph at the start of this month, Comet ISON will eventually reach an astonishing 845,000mph on ...
1
vote
1answer
84 views

Companion Sun the cause of comet impacts with Earth

On television, I heard a scientist who believes that our Sun has a companion (brown dwarf) Sun, that is responsible for comets destroying life here on Earth every 26 million years. He proposed the ...
1
vote
3answers
110 views

If sun steals comets from other stars, then what is the primary source of comets?

I heard some theory that sun may steal materials such as comets from neighbouring stars, is it true? But if is true, what is the primary source of those comets? Especially "who" creates them instead ...