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Lecture 11

ASTR 3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 11: Kuiper Belt, Inclined Orbit, Oort Cloud

Astronomy and Astrophysics
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Thursday, November 19, 2015
12.2 Comets
-What are comets like?
comets formed beyond the frost line, comets are icy counterparts to asteroids
nuclear of a comet is a “dirty snowball”
most comets do not have tails - the part that gets left behind
most comets remain perpetually frozen in the outer solar system
only comets that enter the inner solar system grow tails
-Nuclear of a comet
source of material for comet’s tail
-Anatomy of a comet
a coma is the atmosphere that comes from a comet’s heated nucleus
a plasma tail is gas escaping from coma, pushed by the solar wind
a dust tail is pushed by photons
growth of tail: nucleus begins to warm up, gas begins to form around nucleus and
gets hotter and hotter as it gets closer to the sun (tail always points away from the
sun because the solar wind is pushing the tail)
-Comets eject small particles that follow the comet around in its orbit and cause
meteor showers when Earth crosses the comet’s orbit (they come into earth’s
atmosphere at very high speed and vaporize)
-Where do comets come from?
only a tiny number of comets enter the inner solar system, most stay far away from
the Sun
Oort Cloud contains a trillion comets - much much further away than those in the
kuiper belt
-comet orbits have random tilts and eccentricities, its a shit show
so does the Kuiper belt - comets orbit in the same plane and direction as planets
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