Do the tails of comets increase on their return trip from the Sun?

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean with increase? Why do you think so? $\endgroup$
    – user1569
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 15:25
  • $\begingroup$ I think increase is self-evident in the context, as in, a longer tail during recession. $\endgroup$
    – HaleBopp
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 15:44
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Comet tails as seen from Earth can grow, shrink, or vanish entirely during the course of the comets journey through the inner solar system, depending both on what happens to the comets' supply of dust and volatiles and the relative geometry of the comets' orbits to that of the earth. $\endgroup$
    – antlersoft
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 15:46
  • $\begingroup$ @antlersoft I think you should expand this into an answer $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ It seems likely that both the decreased cometary activity from lower solar heating, and the comet itself catching up to already-emitted dust and gas would result in a shorter tail as it recedes from the sun. $\endgroup$
    – notovny
    Commented Dec 13, 2019 at 21:31

1 Answer 1


The only data I could find indicates that the brightness is similar approaching and receding: enter image description here Source
This is for the unusual almost "tailless" Comet Wirtanen .


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