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Unformatted text preview: Tails When the comet gets to around Mars' distance from the Sun, the Sun's radiation pushes the coma gas and dust away from the Sun to form the well-known tails of a comet. Usually, two tails will form, a bluish, straight ion tail and a more curved, yellow-white dust tail . A nice example of this are shown in the picture of Comet West below: Courtesy of John Laborde The Sun is constantly spewing out charged particles, called the solar wind, into the solar system. The solar wind travels along solar magnetic field lines extending radially outward from the Sun. Ultraviolet light from the Sun ionizes some of the gases in the coma. These charged particles (ions) are forced along magnetic field lines to form the ion tail millions of kilometers long. The blue ion tail acts like a "solar" wind sock. The ion tail always points directly away from the Sun, so when the comet is moving away from the Sun, its ion tail will be almost in front of it! The blue color is mostly from the light emitted by carbon monoxide ions but other types of ions also...
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This note was uploaded on 12/15/2011 for the course AST AST1002 taught by Professor Emilyhoward during the Fall '10 term at Broward College.
- Fall '10