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Halley's comet HTML5


Comets are small bodies originating in the furthest reaches of the solar system, which orbit the sun in a highly elliptic path, thus obeying the laws of universal gravitation.
Comets are a mixture of ice and meteoric matter. Near the sun, their volatile elements sublimate to form a cloud ending in a long tail which is always directed away from the sun.
The path of Halley’s comet, with its 76 year period, is simulated here. You can click on the comet to drag it to different initial conditions, and so see other possible trajectories of such a body in a gravitational field.

Click and drag the comet to set new initial conditions.

Learning goals

  • To illustrate the elliptical orbit of a body which experience a central gravitational force.

Pedagogical activities also available at eduMedia's Rosetta Mission page.

Learn more

The British astronomer Edmund Halley owes his fame to his prediction that the comet now named after him would return in 1758. In 1986 the space probe Giotto came within 600 kilometres of the…

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