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Comet West, 1976
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Comet West as photographed from the Lick Observatory in 1976 March. Comet West, officially known as C/1975 V1, 1976 VI, and 1975n, was an awesome comet that was sometimes considered to qualify for the status of great comet. A Great Comet is a comet that becomes exceptionally bright; there is no official definition, often the term will be attached to comets that become bright enough to be noticed by casual observers who are not actively looking for them, and become well known outside the astronomical community. Great Comets are rare; on average only one will appear in a decade. While comets are officially named after their discoverers, Great Comets are sometimes also referred to by the year in which they appeared great. A comet is a celestial object that orbits the Sun along an elongated path. A comet that is not near the Sun consists only of a nucleus,a solid core of frozen water, frozen gases, and dust. When a comet comes close to the Sun, its nucleus heats up and releases a gaseous coma that surrounds the nucleus. A comet forms a tail when solar heat or wind forces dust or gas off its coma, with the tail always streaming away from the Sun. Short-period comets have orbital periods of less than 200 years and come from the region known as the Kuiper belt. Long-period comets have periods greater than 200 years and come from the Oort cloud. The Lick Observatory is an astronomical observatory, owned and operated by the University of California.
May 30th, 2013
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