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Do Comets Orbit the Sun? What You Need to Know!

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comet in the sky

Our solar system is a place of many celestial wonders, and you may have thought about the whereabouts of one of the most fascinating objects: the comet. Although many of us know that these massive balls of ice fly through space at an alarming speed and orbit our planets (in addition to their respective moons), there is still one question some of us might have; do comets orbit the Sun? The short answer to this is yes. Comets orbit the Sun. However, our beloved star is much different than planets in this regard, and there’s so much more to learn about the life of comets. We’ll cover a few details about the comet’s travels and some mind-blowing facts.

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What Happens When a Comet Orbits the Sun?

While a comet is traveling in space, the Sun’s heat can easily melt the ice and dust particles that make up the body of the comet, making it difficult for it to stay intact for long. Comets that orbit the Sun have an elongated orbit.

comet in sun orbit
Image Credit: muratart, Shutterstock

What Are Comets Made Of?

Comets are composed of more than just one form of matter. They are essentially huge rocks that are covered in a layer of ice that hurl across the void of space until they reach the gravitational pull of another celestial object such as a planet, moon, or star. Additionally, they are composed of many gases that are evident when you look at their “tails.” 

How Big Are Comets That Orbit the Sun?

Normally, most comets are enormous and can be bigger than the size of a football field. They can be small as well, and that is especially true for comets that orbit the Sun. As we mentioned earlier, comets that orbit our star are subject to extreme heat due to how close the Sun’s surface is. During the process, the ice will melt away, reducing its size. In other areas of our solar system, comets aren’t slowed down by this factor and will retain most of their mass. But it’s much chillier!

comet with tail in space
Image Credit: Nazarii Neshcherenskyi, Shutterstock

How Long Does It Take for a Comet to Orbit the Sun?

In many cases, comets that orbit our star can take more than 100,000 years to phase out completely. However, a single rotation around the Sun could only be as long as 200 years. Longer orbits may pass the 200-year mark. 

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Final Thoughts

As such an extraordinary moving object in space, it’s not surprising that many people think comets are the coolest thing outside our world. Due to their icy nature, they wouldn’t be wrong. They orbit the Sun, and scientists are on the hunt for them constantly to study their travels. Comets are unpredictable but also amazing!

Featured Image Credit: Matt Wang, Unsplash

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.