Comets, popularly known as 'shooting stars', are small bodies in the Solar System that orbit the Sun. The presence of a coma or a tail distinguishes them from asteroids. Some of them come close enough to Sun, for us to see them at night. However, there are others which are at considerable distance and have been left unnoticed. It is the closer comets that have been scrutinized by scientists and thus, have gained popularity on earth. Given below is list of the 5 famous comets that have been discovered so far.
Five Famous Comets
Comet Halley is perhaps the most famous comet till date. Named after British astronomer Edmund Halley, this comet was seen in 1531 and 1607. According to his observations, every time it approaches the Sun, its 15-km nucleus drops about 6 m of ice and rock into space. This results in the formation of an orbiting trail, which, when it falls on Earth, is called Orionids meteor shower. It is anticipated that Comet Halley will return to the inner Solar System in 2061.
Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
According to the scientific observations, more than 20 fragments of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 collided with Jupiter between July 16 and July 22, 1994. This was the first collision of two Solar System bodies ever recorded by the Hubble Space Telescope. This comet was discovered by astronomers Carolyn and Eugene Shoemaker, and David Levy.
Comet Hale Bopp
Two astronomers, Alan Hale of New Mexico and Thomas Bopp of Arizona, observed a large and bright comet, seen just outside Jupiter's orbit. Discovered on July 23, 1995, this famous comet was carefully analyzed using Hubble Space Telescope. Hale-Bopp comet is famous for holding a record for the longest period of naked-eye visibility. It is predicted that this comet will not appear in another 2400 years.
American astronomers Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle discovered Comet Swift-Tuttle in July 1862. According to their observations, as this comet moves nearer to the Sun in every 120 years, a trail of dust debris is left behind, which provides the ingredients for a spectacular fireworks display seen in July and August. Scientists predict that this comet will collide with Earth one day, because the two orbits closely intercept each other.
Comet Hyakutake was discovered by an Japanese astronomer - Yuji Hyakutake. The scientist observed it on January 30, 1996, with the help of a pair of binoculars. The comet seemed to be small and bright, with the longest tail ever observed. According to the calculations done by astronomers, the orbit of Comet Hyakutake will not bring it near the sun again for next 14000 years.