Our universe is filled with amazing things. Mankind has managed to explore and understand only a fraction of the whole universe. One of things that we human understand for sure is a comet. Having said that, it is also important to say that despite our better understanding of comets, we are still pretty much in darkness when it comes to answering a few questions like, did comets bring water molecules to planet earth or did they bring the primordial life forms? There is much of speculation and debate around these questions and we are pretty sure that this debate is going to continue for some time! So, instead of pondering over those question, let us get back to what we already know and explore 30 interesting comet facts. You may already know them but consider this article as a brush up course!
Interesting Comet Facts: 1-10
1. What is a comet? An icy body releasing dust and/or gas is known as comet. Comets were usually considered as dirty snowballs but recent studies on comets have led scientists to call them as snowy dirtballs.
2. Creation of comets: According to scientists, comets are actually celestial objects that have been created from the leftovers of rocks, dust, ice and gas that were formed some 4.6 billion years ago when the universe was formed. So if that’s true, comets are one of the oldest objects of universe.
3. Comet’s structure: A comet’s main body is known as nucleus. It is also called as the core. NASA says that the core or the nucleus is made of dust with dark organic material coating and ice.
4. Structure of nucleus: NASA further explains that the ice present in the nucleus is made of frozen water, carbon dioxide, ammonia, carbon monoxide and methane.
5. Inside nucleus: The nucleus of a comet in turn has a small core which is usually rocky.
6. Coma – the gas cloud: When a comet gets close to the sun, it gives birth to what is known as coma. Coma is actually the cloud that is formed when the ice on nucleus of the comet turns into gas because of the heat.
7. The dust tail: This coma contains dust particles. These dust particles are pushed away from the coma by the radiations from the sun. These pushed away dust particles then form the dust tail that we see when a comet passes by. The dust tail always and always points away from the sun.
8. The ion tail: Apart from the dust tail, a comet has something called ion tail. As the comet gets closer to the sun, some of the gases in the coma gets converted into ions. These ions are also pushed out by the sun’s radiations, forming the ion tail. The ion tail is not visible to naked eyes. Similar to dust tail, the ion tail always points away from the sun.
9. Is it an asteroid? An advancing comet may sometimes be confused as an asteroid. This may happen because the tail may not be visible at first. To differentiate between a comet and an asteroid, astronomers will always look for the dust tail and the ion tail. Presence of at least one of the tails will mean that the advancing body is a comet and not an asteroid.
10. Size of comets: Comets generally do not have nuclei greater than 16 kilometers or 10 miles wide.