Questions tagged [comets]

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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78
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2answers
14k views

Could the dinosaurs have seen the asteroid that killed them?

Wikipedia says the Chicxulub impactor is thought to have been a 10-15 km diameter object. Would it have been visible to a (human*) naked eye before impact? And if so, would it have appeared like a ...
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How can comets have tails if there's no air resistance in space?

I understand that solar radiation causes material to vaporize out of a comet into dust but why does the dust then trail behind the comet like a "tail"? Assuming gravity is the only applied force ...
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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 ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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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? ...
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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?
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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 same?...
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1answer
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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 ...
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Why would the Perseids meteor rate fall off after maximum faster than the increase before maximum?

Writing about the 2018 occurrence of the annual Perseids meteor shower, the EarthSky.org Astronomy Essentials article Start watching for Perseids now says: People tend to focus on the peak mornings ...
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4answers
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Do comets contain any significant amounts of iridium?

I have Googled "iridium content of comets" and can't find anything that suggests comets contain iridium in any detectable quantities. Yet, whenever I read an article about the Chicxulub impactor, the ...
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1answer
106 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 ...
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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?
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1answer
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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 ...
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How did water get on Earth

I recently read that water more than 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 than an atomic bomb. ...
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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 ?
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Where is the Perseids meteor shower coming from?

Swift–Tuttle Comet has orbital period of 133.28 years. Yet, people say that debris and dust from this comet causes this meteor shower. This does not make any sense. Or do they want to say that from ...
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2answers
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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?
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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?.
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1answer
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Is this object an asteroid or comet, and how can it produce so many tails?

The NASA Hubble Space Telescope Science Release HEIC 1320 - When is a Comet not a Comet? - Hubble astronomers observe bizarre six-tailed asteroid is self-explanatory, but it doesn't explain what ...
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Comet Neowise c2020 f3 will return in ~6800 years, how can we be sure Earth will be in the right place to see it then?

I have read in several places that the orbital period of comet Neowise c2020 F3 is about 6800 years. In several popular media sources it is said that we will be able to see the same comet after ~6800 ...
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1answer
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Do some comets spin? If so, how fast?

The GIF below is copied from my question earlier What might a CN filter be in the context of comet watching? Is it showing dust, or gas, or something else? where I'd said: In this post on the website ...
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How do comets' nuclei stick together?

Comets are commonly called icy dust balls or dirty snowballs and as such rather light: Known comets have been estimated to have an average density of $0.6 {\rm g}/{\rm cm}^3$. Because of their low ...
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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?
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Period coincidence of Planet Nine with furthest Kuiper belt objects

A lead scientist of the Planet Nine theory said that "The period with which it goes around the sun is a rational multiple of the periods of all the furthest Kuiper Belt objects" To what degree of ...
9
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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, ...
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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 ...
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Is it possible for a virus to come from a meteorite?

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 ...
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Size and mass of comet ATLAS (C/2019 Y4)

I read some news about this new comet and some unreliable sources said it is twice as big as Jupiter. I tried to find a reliable estimation of its size or mass, but I couldn't find anything. Would you ...
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Do astronomers generally agree that the distinction between comets and asteroids is not so clear?

edit: I just saw this tweet and find it incredibly relevant :) begin question: See this answer and then consider if there are known or likely solar system bodies that might be identified as both ...
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Does Jupiter help to protect the Earth against comets/asteroids impacts?

Does Jupiter help to protect the Earth against comets or asteroids impacts? Some astronomers believe that one reason Earth is habitable is that the gravity of Jupiter does help protect us from some ...
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1answer
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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?
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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 ...
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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 ...
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What ever happened to the "Small Comet Theory" of water influx on present-day Earth?

This comment (below the question Is there any new water formed on, or brought to, Earth?) links to the 2002 Article in the New Scientist Was all the Earth’s water brought here by comets? which states: ...
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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?
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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 ...
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1answer
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How uniformly is cometary debris distributed along the entire orbit of the comet?

Meteor showers occur when Earth passes through debris shed by a comet (if I get that right). Does this mean that the entire orbit of the comet is strewn with debris? I suppose that the debris follows ...
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Is Rosetta changing the theory of comets? [closed]

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 comets?...
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1answer
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Blue color of ion (plasma) comet tails

What exactly is the cause of blue light of ion (plasma) tails of comets? Somewhere I have read that the source of blue light are CO+ ions which has just acquired the missing electron and became ...
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What is the difference between a depleted comet and an asteroid?

When a periodic comet flies by the Sun enough times, it can become depleted of its volatile elements. Once it is depleted, what distinguishes it from an asteroid, other than records of past sightings ...
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Why do particles from a comet that result in meteor showers spread out mostly along the comet's orbit?

My understanding of the meteor showers that repeat yearly is that the Earth passes through the orbit of a comet that is nowhere near us, and might not even exist anymore, yet it's orbit is filled with ...
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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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, ...
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The creation of comets

How are comet and meteors made, and what causes them to travel through space so fast? I have tried researching, but I decided this was the faster way.
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1answer
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How does this comet have alcohol in it?

Recently I read about comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy).The thing got me amazed was that scientists found it was dumping ethyl alcohol all along its way, at a rate of around 300-500 bottles per second. So I ...
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Earth 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 ...
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1answer
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How long does a comet "live"?

When a comet loses all his volatile material after many orbits around the Sun, it becomes a "dead" comet (like an asteroid, a centaur or whatever), see for example 2015 TB145. Is there any ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...