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Dublin: 2°C Sunday 11 April 2021

Quiz: How much do you know about comets?

Test your knowledge here.

Image: Raysastrophotograhy via Wikimedia

IT IS TIME to pay your respects and say goodbye to Comet C/2020 F3, more commonly known as Neowise.

It was one of the brightest comets to appear in our skies for years, but it is now dimming, and won’t be back for many thousands of years.

You’ll still be able to spot it, however.

When we say ‘brightest’, it’s a very low bar. It’s just about visible with the naked eye in urban areas – but with a tripod and any camera with manual controls, you should be able to get a photo.

Get yourself to a rural area with little light pollution, and you’ll be laughing.

If you can’t be bothered, perhaps this quiz will suffice?

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Let's start with the basics. What's a comet?
NASA/EPOXI via Wikipedia
A meteor burning up in the Earth's atmosphere.
An icy object that, when close to the sun, heats up and releases gasses.

Like a shooting star, but it gets caught briefly in Earth's orbit.
A dark omen.
Many of us have been in awe at the appearance of the Neowise comet. When was it discovered?
March 1945
March 1997

There's evidence of it being spotted as far back as the Iron Age
March 2020
It's fading now, but was visible with the naked eye in many areas. How big is its nucleus (core)?
500 metres

While it is spectacular, it's not classed as a 'great comet', a title given to the brightest and most visible comets over the years. What was the most recent of these in the northern hemisphere?
Perseid's Comet
Comet Hale–Bopp

Comet 1850 715 815
Halley's Comet
Shoemaker–Levy 9 is quite the name for a comet. What is it known for?
It caused panic in France around harvest time in 1553. People were too scared to leave their homes, so few crops were harvested, and famine ensued the following year.
It is the only comet to be visible in both the southern and northern hemispheres in one night.

NASA pointed a microphone at it and heard some guy screaming.
It broke up and whacked smack-bang into Jupiter
Tempel 1 isn't a hugely remarkable comet - but what is it known for?
We flew a space probe right into the goddamn thing to see what was inside.
It's visible all year round by astronauts on the International Space Station.

It's stuck at one of the Lagrange points around Earth, meaning it's stationary.
We think there's a guy screaming on this comet as well, but NASA is too scared to check.
We've never successfully landed (not crashed) an object on a comet. True or false?
What might comets be responsible for bringing to Earth?

The planet's molten core
Neowise has headed off for another 6,800 years, but Halley's Comet is special because some people, born at the right time, will see it twice in their lifetime. It last appeared in our skies in 1986 - when is it due next?

And finally: Generally speaking, most comets have two tails. One is made from dust. What is the other made of?

Answer all the questions to see your result!
You scored out of !
You're the guy who was heard screaming on Shoemaker–Levy 9
You sure do know a lot about comets, having made one your home. We hope you're doing okay!
Share your result:
You scored out of !
You're a descendant of Edmond Halley
Halley's Comet is named after this fella. Although it had been spotted in our skies for thousands of years, Halley was the first to determine its periodicity, and correctly predicted when it would return.
Share your result:
You scored out of !
You're some lad peering through a telescope
Navigating the night's sky isn't that easy as you thought it would be when you bought that telescope when it was on special offer in a German discount retailer, so you have a bit of work to do to become an expert.
Share your result:
You scored out of !
You're a pair of binoculars
Not the perfect piece of equipment for spotting a comet, but better than nothing! Much like your result, eh?
Share your result:
You scored out of !
You are light pollution
Your result was as bad as the impact that a city or town's lights has on astronomy.
Share your result:

About the author:

Nicky Ryan

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