Asteroids, Meteors, and Comets (Space!) by Josepha Sherman

By Josepha Sherman

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Aristotle argued that comets were seen where there were no planets. Aristotle thought that comets were not solid, but were caused by warm air in the upper sky colliding with the cold air of outer space, triggering a fireball. 36 Comets Many people believed that comets were either warnings of bad news or marked some major changes about to happen. Comets were often tied to famous births or deaths. Seneca was a Roman teacher and writer who lived from around 4 BCE to 65 CE. Seneca wrote a book called Naturales Quaestiones, or Natural Questions, about astronomy and meteorology, which is the study of the weather.

In 1985, the Japanese Space Agency—which is now the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)—launched its first spacecraft. Sakigake was launched from the Kagoshima Space Center and aimed at Halley’s Comet. 3 million miles (7 million km) from the comet. A second probe, Suisei, was launched on August 18, 1985. It had a double mission: to study Halley’s Comet and to measure the solar wind, the flow of particles from the sun. Suisei was able to send back several images of the comet. SHOEMAKER-LEVY 9 Though most comets merely pass by Earth, other planets have experienced comet impacts.

However, some Greek scholars were more interested in finding out what comets actually were. Aristotle was a Greek scholar who studied and wrote about many different subjects. One of the books he wrote was called Meteorologica. It was about his observations of comets, together with the thoughts of other scholars. Aristotle refused to accept any theories he thought were foolish, such as the idea that there was only one comet and that it was a planet. In his book, Aristotle also includes debates about comet tails and whether they were made of moisture drawn from the planets the comet passed.

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