JERRY LODRIGUSS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY JERRY LODRIGUSS / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Comet Hale-Bopp being watched by a man and woman. A comet consists of ices and dust, and orbits round the Sun. Near the Sun, the icy core melts and boils into space. The solar wind and radiation blows the resulting ions and dust into tails that can be millions of kilometres long. The ion tail (blue) glows with its own light and the dust tail (white) reflects sunlight. The ion tail always points away from the Sun. Comet Hale-Bopp (also known as C/1995 O1) was closest to the Sun in March 1997, and was visible for several months to the naked eye. It is a long-period comet: it will be around 4000 years before it reappears.
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