cometic

Cultural Dictionary

comet definition


An object that enters the inner solar system, typically in a very elongated orbit around the sun. Material is boiled off from the comet by the heat of the sun, so that a characteristic tail is formed. The path of a comet can be in the form of an ellipse or a hyperbola. If it follows a hyperbolic path, it enters the solar system once and then leaves forever. If its path is an ellipse, it stays in orbit around the sun.

Note: Comets were once believed to be omens, and their appearances in the sky were greatly feared or welcomed.
Note: The most famous comet, Comet Halley (or Halley's comet), passes close to the Earth roughly every seventy-six years, most recently in 1986.
The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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