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Comets: Small Bodies / Big Impacts
Background


Comet slide
Small Bodies, Big Impacts: Comets Revealed


Cosmic Dust Expert Dr. Mike Zolensky discusses the science of comets in this presentation, broken out into four parts below.

Previous Understandings about Comets
Sample Return from Comet Wild 2
Interpreting Spectra
Education and Public Outreach
Complete Transcript (Word, 50 KB)




Color image of comet in space
Comet NEAT
Solar System Exploration: Comets (new window)


We now know that comets are leftovers from the dawn of our solar system around 4.6 billion years ago, and consist mostly of ice coated with dark organic material. They have been referred to as dirty snowballs. They may yield important clues about the formation of our solar system.


Comets may have brought water and organic compounds, the building blocks of life, to the early Earth and other parts of the solar system.








Ancient illustration of comet causing chaos
Comets have inspired dread, fear and awe.
Comets in Ancient Cultures (new window)


Comets have inspired dread, fear and awe in many different cultures and societies around the world and throughout time. They have been branded with such titles as "the Harbinger of Doom" and "the Menace of the Universe." They have been regarded both as omens of disaster and messengers of the gods. Why is it that comets are some of the most feared and venerated objects in the night sky? Why did so many cultures cringe at the sight of a comet?








Link to fact sheet about comets.
Comets vs. Asteroids Fact Sheet (PDF, 1.3 MB)


This colorful illustrated document compares and describes comets and asteroids at a level appropriate for older children and adults.

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Last Updated: 12 Sep 2014