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angular momentum dust tail ion tail
Kuiper Belt long period comet meteor shower
nucleus (comet) Oort Cloud primitive
short period comet solar wind sublime

Review Questions

  1. What is a comet?
  2. How do comets give clues to the original conditions of the solar system?
  3. If all of the objects in our solar system (Sun, planets, moons, etc.) formed from the same material, why are most meteorites and comets useful for finding out what the early solar system was like but the planets and the Sun are not?
  4. What are the four components of a comet when it is close to the Sun and what are their dimensions?
  5. Put the nucleus of a typical comet in the following sequence: stadium, Bakersfield, California, United States, Earth. Why can the nucleus not hang onto its gas and dust?
  6. What unexpected things did we find out about the nuclei of comets from recent comet missions? Why were they unexpected?
  7. What are comets made of and what is the structure of the nucleus like?
  8. What happens to a comet's nucleus as it approaches the Sun?
  9. What are the two tails of a comet and what are they made of? What gives them their characteristic colors?
  10. Which way do the tails point? Why is a comet's tail in front of a comet as it moves away from the Sun?
  11. How are long period comets associated with the Oort Cloud? How is the Oort Cloud known to exist if it has not been observed?
  12. What direction can long period comets come from? What causes a comet in the Oort cloud to head toward the inner solar system?
  13. How are short period comets associated with the Kuiper Belt?
  14. What direction do most short period comets come from?
  15. How were the Oort Cloud and Kuiper Belt formed?
  16. What is the difference between a dwarf planet and a planet? Why is Pluto now considered a dwarf planet?
  17. How are the meteors in a meteor shower different from the ordinary meteors you can see on any night of the year?
  18. Why does a meteor shower happen at the same time every year?

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last updated: March 25, 2013

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Author of original content: Nick Strobel