Sunday, June 29, 2008

Aristotle's Stars With Hair

The word "comet" comes from a Greek word coined by Aristotle, "kometes", meaning star with hair. Comets are thrown from the farthest reaches of our solar system by gravitational irregularities from outer planets and nearby stars, or as a result of collisions. The comets are made up of ice, dust and rocky debris particles and can measure a mile or many miles across. They orbit the sun, and when they get close enough, the solar radiation affects them to such a degree that they become visible from Earth. When the Earth passes through the comet's trail of debris, the result is a meteor shower. There were 3,354 known comets as of last November.

The comet pictured is called Comet Hyakutake, discovered in southern Japan in 1996 by a dedicated amateur astrologer, Yuji Hyakutake, who spotted it with a pair of high power binoculars.

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