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Table of Contents Enchanted Learning
All About Astronomy
Site Index
Our Solar System Stars Glossary Printables, Worksheets, and Activities
The Sun The Planets The Moon Asteroids Kuiper Belt Comets Meteors Astronomers

Comets
Introduction to Comets Crossing a Comet's Orbit: Meteor Showers Comet Origins Major Comets Acitvities,
Web Links

SOME MAJOR COMETS


HALLEY'S COMET
Halley's comet is a periodic comet (made of frozen gas and dust), that orbits around the sun. Its earliest-recorded sighting was in 240 B.C. in China, but Edmund Halley was the first person to recognize that it was periodic. It was last seen in 1986 and will be seen next in the year 2061; its period is 76 years. When the Earth passes through Halley's comet's orbit (twice each year), its detritus causes the meteor showers the Eta Aquarids and the Orionids.

SHOEMAKER-LEVY 9

An SL-9 impact site on Jupiter, July 6, 1994. Photo by Hubble Space Telescope.
Shoemaker-Levy 9 (SL-9) was a short-period comet that was discovered by Eugene and Carolyn Shoemaker and David H. Levy. As the comet passed close by Jupiter, Jupiter's gravitational forces broke the comet apart . Fragments of the comet collided with Jupiter for six days during July, 1994, causing huge fireballs in Jupiter's atmosphere that were visible from Earth.

COMET LINEAR
Comet LINEAR [designated C/1999 S4 (LINEAR)] was a comet that broke apart when it approached the Sun. The comet's icy core disintegrated as it passed close to the Sun (its perihelion) in July 2000. The Sun's intense heat had more to do with this comet's break-up than the Sun's gravitational forces.

HALE-BOPP COMET
Hale Bopp (designated C/1995 O1) is a periodic comet that orbits around the sun. Its earliest-recorded sighting was on July 23, 1995. It was independently discovered by Alan Hale (of New Mexico) and Thomas Bopp (of Arizona), both amateur astronomers. This comet has a diameter of about 40 km; it's rotation rate is 11.4 hours. It was last seen in 1997 and will be seen next in the year 4377; its period is 2380 years.

SOME COMETS
About 600 comets have been observed. About a dozen comets are discovered each year. Most comets have very long periods (over 200 years).
A Few Comets Discovered Last Visit Next Visit Period
(years)
Biela 1772 1852 broken up 6.62
Encke 1786 1997 2000 3.28
Faye 1843 1991 1999 7.34
Hale-Bopp July 23, 1995 1997 4377 2380
Halley 240 B.C. 1986 2061 76.00
Hyakutake January 30, 1996 1996 31,496 29,500
Kohoutek March 7, 1973 1973 76,973 75,000
Swift-Tuttle aka Kegler (responsible for the Perseids meteor shower) July 16, 1862
(Kegler first seen in 1737)
1992 2126 about 130
Wild 2/Comet 81P January 6, 1978
(by Paul Wild)
- - 6.39 years




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