Science2 - 00033

Science2 - 00033 - Untitled examined. A "social"...

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Untitled examined. A "social" group of meteorites is the essential part of a comet. The nucleus, or bright central part, of the head of a comet (Fig. 19) consists of a swarm, sometimes thousands of miles wide, of these pieces of iron or stone. This swarm has come under the sun's gravitational influence, and is forced to travel round it. From some dark region of space it has moved slowly into our system. It is not then a comet, for it has no tail. But as the crowded meteors approach the sun, the speed increases. They give off fine vapour-like matter and the fierce flood of light from the sun sweeps this vapour out in an ever-lengthening tail. Whatever way the comet is travelling, the tail always points away from the sun. A Great Comet The vapoury tail often grows to an enormous length as the comet approaches the sun. The great comet of 1843 had a tail two hundred million miles long. It is, however, composed of the thinnest vapours imaginable. Twice during the nineteenth century the earth passed through
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