Which of the Following Is Created When the Ice of a Comet Starts to Melt Into Gases?
Comets are fascinating celestial objects that have captivated human interest for centuries. These icy bodies originate from the far reaches of the solar system and, when they journey closer to the Sun, they undergo a process known as sublimation. Sublimation occurs when a substance transitions directly from a solid state to a gas, bypassing the liquid phase. When the ice on a comet starts to melt into gases, several components are created.
One of the primary gases formed during the melting of a comet’s ice is water vapor. Comets contain a significant amount of water ice, which makes up a considerable portion of their composition. As the heat from the Sun reaches the comet, the ice starts to vaporize, releasing water vapor into space. This vapor then forms a glowing coma, a cloud-like structure surrounding the nucleus of the comet.
In addition to water vapor, comets also release other gases when their ice melts. These gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), and ammonia (NH3). These compounds are trapped within the comet’s icy surface and are liberated as the ice melts. The release of these gases contributes to the creation of the coma, giving it a distinct appearance and composition.
The melting of a comet’s ice into gases also leads to the formation of a tail. The released gases and dust particles are pushed away from the Sun by solar radiation and the solar wind, forming a glowing tail that can extend for millions of kilometers. This tail is usually visible from Earth and is one of the most iconic features of a comet.
1. Can comets have more than one tail?
Yes, comets can have multiple tails. The most common type is the dust tail, which is composed of tiny dust particles from the comet’s nucleus. Comets can also have an ion tail, which is formed when solar radiation ionizes the gases released from the nucleus.
2. How long can a comet’s tail be?
The length of a comet’s tail can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as the size of the nucleus, the composition of the comet, and its distance from the Sun. Some comet tails have been observed to stretch for millions of kilometers.
3. Are comets dangerous to Earth?
While comets can pose a potential threat to Earth, the probability of a direct impact is extremely low. Most comets follow predictable paths, and astronomers closely monitor their movements. However, the possibility of a collision cannot be completely ruled out.
4. How do comets get their names?
Comets are usually named after the person or group of people who first discover them. The names can also be derived from the observatory or satellite responsible for their discovery.
5. Can comets bring water to other planets?
Yes, comets are believed to have played a role in delivering water to other planets, including Earth. It is hypothesized that during the early formation of the solar system, comets bombarded young planets, enriching their water content.
6. Can we send spacecraft to study comets up close?
Yes, several space missions have been launched to study comets up close. Examples include the Rosetta mission by the European Space Agency, which successfully landed a probe on a comet’s nucleus, and NASA’s Stardust mission, which collected samples from a comet’s coma.
7. How often do comets visit the inner solar system?
The frequency at which comets visit the inner solar system varies. Some comets have extremely long orbital periods, taking thousands of years to complete one orbit. Others have shorter periods and can make regular appearances, such as Halley’s Comet, which visits Earth every 76 years.
In conclusion, when the ice of a comet starts to melt into gases, it creates a mixture of water vapor, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, methane, and ammonia. The release of these gases forms the glowing coma and gives rise to the iconic tails associated with comets. Exploring and studying these celestial objects provides valuable insights into the early formation of the solar system and the presence of water and organic compounds in space.