What is a comet?

What is a comet? Here are some definitions.

  1. (astronomy) A celestial body consisting mainly of ice, dust and gas in a (usually very eccentric) orbit around the Sun and having a "tail" of matter blown back from it by the solar wind as it approaches the Sun.
  2. A celestial phenomenon with the appearance given by the orbiting celestial body.
  3. Any of several species of hummingbird found in the Andes.
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These clumps of rock are known as meteors and asteroids, and the name given to icy loose formations of debris is a comet.
In 1986, ESA's Giotto spacecraft performed the closest comet fly-by ever achieved by any spacecraft.
The comet assay shows that extensive DNA damage is created even when initial photosensitization events are extranuclear.
Years earlier scientists had detected cyanogen, a poisonous gas, in the tail of a comet.
An attempt to deflect a comet or asteroid is already in the planning stage.
When the discovery of the giant comet Hale-Bopp was announced in 1995, Nancy proclaimed that it didn't exist.

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