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missions to comets

The first five missions to comets all flew to Comet Halley. Giotto was the most successful. In March 1986, it flew into Halley's coma and gave us our first view of a cometary nucleus. A handful of probes to other comets have been launched since. Rosetta will be the first to orbit and land on a comet when, in 2014, it reaches Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

stardust

Nasa's Stardust has collected particles from the nucleus of Comet Wild-2. This will give astronomers their first chance to examine cometary material at close hand.

from comet to meteor

The dust particles shed by comets are termed meteoroids. If one enters Earth's atmosphere, it heats up and produces a short-lived trail of light—a meteor, also sometimes called a shooting star. A really bright meteor is termed a fireball. When Earth passes through a stream of dust particles shed by a comet along its orbital path, a meteor shower will result.

deep impact

The Deep Impact probe shot a missile into the nucleus of Comet Tempel-1 in July 2005. It formed a crater, thus exposing the interior of the comet.

A fIREBALL iN THE NORTH AMERiCAN SKY

observing comets and meteors about 2,000 comets have been detected, many by the soHo space craft. From Earth, they are, in the main, faint and only observable with a telescope. Two to three a year can be seen through binoculars, and three to four a century with the naked eye. these appear like a fuzzy, possibly elongated, patch of light. Meteors, which typically last for less than a second, can be viewed by the naked eye. they occur on any night of the year but are best spotted during one of the 20 or so annual meteor showers.

prominent annual meteor showers leonid meteor shower

Earth plows into the dust stream of Comet Tempel-Tuttle every November. The dust particles burn up and produce meteors while speeding through Earth's atmosphere.

name

date

constellation

quadrantids

Jan.1-6

Bootes

lyrids

Apr. 19-24

Lyra

eta aquarids

May 1-8

Aquarius

delta aquarids

Jul. 15-Aug. 15

Aquarius

perseids

Jul. 25-Aug. 18

Perseus

orionids

Oct. 16-27

Orion

taurids

Oct. 20-N0V. 30

Taurus

leonids

Nov. 15-20

Leo

geminids

Dec. 7-15

Gemini

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