Fun Facts about Comets

What Is a Comet?

Via: What Is a Comet? | NASA Space Place – NASA Science for Kids

In celebration of our new line of rings, Thorum gladly presents this post on fun facts about comets!  In addition, as part of this new collection, we have a ring inspired by a natural marvel of space called ‘The Comet’, which will surely be a prized piece for any space fans thinking about getting a ring.

So sit back and relax as we give you some fun facts about the cosmos, and you might just learn and thing or two about why comets are some of the coolest space travellers around. 

What is a Comet?

What is a Comet?

Via: What Is a Comet? | NASA Space Place – NASA Science for Kids

In their basics, comets are large celestial objects made of dust and ice that orbit the sun. Furthermore, they are iconic for their glowing nucleus and a long dust tail. These objects jetting through space are leftovers from the solar system's formation 4.6 billion years ago (when our star was born).

A comet is made up of several basic parts:

  • Nucleus: The hard centre of the cluster of dust and ice.
  • Dust tail: The debris tail which is blown off the comet’s body by solar radiation.
  • Coma: The outer skin of the comet of clouds which form when facing the sun.
  • Ion tail: The trail of cloud debris blown away by solar winds, coming off the coma which faces away from the sun. 

What are the Types of Comets?

Types of Comets

Via: Comets or volcanoes? Scientists are changing their minds about how the Earth's water got here (theconversation.com)

It is agreed that there are two types of comets and their types depend on how long it takes to circle the sun: 

  • A short-term comet completes an orbit in less than 200 years,
  • Long-term comets take much longer than 200, some into thousands or millions of years.

What Comet can be seen with the Naked eye?

Haileys Comet

Via: Halley's Comet - Wikipedia

Many comets can be seen from Earth, although how long they stay this way is usually not for very long before they drive back into the far reaches of space. 

Halley’s Comet is the most iconic celestial object that could be seen with the unaided eye for most of the 20th century, but in the late 1980s, it drifted back into far-off space. It is a famous comet that most know by name because of this fact and will next be seen in 2066. 

How Do Comets Form?

 How the rubber-duck comet

Via: How the rubber-duck comet got its shape | Nature

Organic comet

Via: Even More Complex Organic Molecules Have Been Found in a Protoplanetary Disc. Was Life Inevitable? - Universe Today

Comets formed about 4.6 billion years ago during the formation of the protoplanetary disk of a freshly forming star, our own sun. On the edges of the disk, far from the sun, the cold particles wedged together to form clusters of frozen gases, dust and ice, eventually becoming comets. 

Did Life on Earth Come from a Comet?

Earth Come from a Comet

Via: Comets' heads can be green, but never their tails. After 90 years, we finally know why | UNSW Newsroom

The question of how biological material ended up on earth is one of endless discussion and possible solutions. Meteorites and comets are a common thread to help answer this question, but how likely is it?

It is common for meteorites, with some even originating from the moon or mars, to end up on earth. These floating rocks in space are the perfect vessel for small organisms to hitch a free ride from one side of space to the other, frozen in a capsule of ice to survive the journey. But we have yet to find evidence of this theory, so the question continues to allude to a straight answer. 

Did Earth Water Come from a Comet?

Earth Water

Via: Comet Provides New Clues to Origins of Earth’s Oceans | NASA

Almost as much as 10% of all water on Earth came from comets across the years, as comets are made up of gases, particles and ice. However, many more factors are at play regarding the planet's iconic blue image, including chemical reactions when the planet was formed and meteorites. 

Where do Comets Reside?

Comets Reside

Via: What Is a Comet? | NASA Space Place – NASA Science for Kids

Most comets in our solar system are found on the fringes of the Sun’s orbit, whilst others are found in orbital belts between some of the planets. Most around are found in these clusters (asteroid belts or the more common Oort Cloud), but some rare lone wanderers appear between planets and close to the Earth from time to time.

What is the Kuiper Belt?

This is a disk-shaped part of space home to thousands of comets and asteroids located in the region of space between Neptune and Pluto. 

What is the asteroid belt?

Similar to the Kuiper Belt, this region of space is home to many comets and asteroids, but it is smaller than Kuiper and is located between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.

What is the Oort Cloud?

This is a theoretical cloud of icy objects and particles at the far fringes of the sun’s orbit. Many believe this is where the majority of comets in our solar system reside. 

Who Discovered the First Comet?

First Comet

Via: Great Comet of 1680 - Wikipedia

Gottfried Kirch discovered the first comets in 1680 and 1681 using a telescope and cometary trajectory. He named these comets Kirch's Comet and Newton's Comet.

The First Photographed Comet?

Photographed Comet

Via: Human Firsts: The First Comet Photographed – The Affirmation Spot Blog

Donati's comet was the first to be photographed back in 1858 by astronomer Giovanni Battista Donati. It was a favourite subject to record, not just amongst photographers, as it was painted numerous times and appears in many stories from firsthand witnesses.

Naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, 1858, wrote: 

"I observed what seemed a fire of remarkable whiteness on the very summit of the hill... the magnificent comet which was at the same time, astonishing all Europe. The nucleus presented to the naked eye a distinct disc of brilliant white light, from which the tail rose at an angle of about 30° or 35° with the horizon, curving slightly downwards, and terminating in a broad brush of faint light, the curvature of which diminished till it was nearly straight at the end. The portion of the tail next the comet appeared three or four times as bright as the most luminous portion of the milky way, and what struck me as a singular feature was that its upper margin, from the nucleus to very near the extremity, was clearly and almost sharply defined, while the lower side gradually shaded off into obscurity."

What's the Biggest Comet? 

Biggest Comet

Via: The 'megacomet' Bernardinelli-Bernstein is the find of a decade. Here's the discovery explained. | Space

The largest comet found to date was discovered in 2014 and is called the Bernardinelli-Bernstein comet (C/2014 UN271). It has a nucleus diameter of 120 km and was located around Neptune at the time of identification. Despite its size, it wouldn’t be surprising if we discover a larger comet in the future!

Could Comets Kill Life on Earth?

Comets Kill Life 

Via: The Real Science Behind ‘Don’t Look Up’ | Science| Smithsonian Magazine

A comet on its own could not destroy the earth, but studies have been done to determine what effect it would have on life and its ecosystems. Scientists theorize that a comet of 10km in width or greater would have the capability to wipe out a large portion of life on earth because of the impact energy of 100 million megatonnes.  This was the same impact that killed the dinosaurs. 

How Many Comets do we know of?

Many Comets 

Via: How the first woman astronomer Maria Mitchell discovered a comet - Education Today News (indiatoday.in)

By 2022, only 4584 comets are currently known as being observed or recorded through sky surveys by astronomers. However, it is estimated that there could be upwards of one trillion comets in our solar system alone. 

Could we land on a Comet?

land on a Comet

Via: Philae Marks the First Ever Soft Landing on a Comet - Advanced Science News

In 2014, the first-ever landing was made on a comet by an unnamed spacecraft called the Philae Lander. As part of a wider effort to study comets to understand the universe's formation, they first orbited the object before landing to record its physical make-up. 

 Although this was a big step forward, as of 2022, we have yet to send people to a comet, and some even doubt it would be possible with how small these tiny objects are. Why? Their gravity is different to planets and would make it hard to stay grounded and the material might not be as compact either.

What's the Difference between a Comet and an Asteroid?

Comet and an Asteroid?

Via: Asteroids vs Comets: What Are The Differences and Similarities? (scienceabc.com)

Both asteroids and comets are small celestial objects that are caught in an endless loop of orbit around larger objects. They both look the same but are quite different. 

We have pointed out that comets are made of frozen gases and particles, giving them a long tail. But what are asteroids? They are hunks of solid rock formed from planet debris or impacts between two meteorites. 

The Comet: Meteorite and Dinosaur Fossil Ring

The comet

Via:  The Comet | Meteorite and Dinosaur Bone Ring | Thorum

Isn’t she beautiful? We won’t deny that our ‘comet’ is not made of actual comet debris. Would you want dust and ice for a ring? It would melt and get very messy. However, meteorites have a similar life history to comets as they often dance in the same celestial clusters on the outskirts of space. In the dark, far from the light of the sun. 

If you want a piece of space’s beauty and some natural history from earth’s past, this would be the perfect ring for you! Just think, maybe this t-rex was killed by a comet, so in some grand plan kind of way, this ring is connected to the stars in one than one way. 

Final Remarks

James Webb

Via: James Webb will explore an interstellar comet (universemagazine.com)

We hope you have learnt a thing or two about comets from this post. These are some of the most beautiful objects that we can see in the night sky and who knew how rare they actually were? Now maybe you can try catch a glimpse of them from  a telescope for yourself or if you want a little piece of the cosmos then perhaps one of our special rings!

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