A member of the solar system which usually moves in an elongated orbit, approaching very near to the sun in its perihelion, and receding to a very great distance from it at its aphelion. A comet commonly consists of three parts: the nucleus, the envelope, or coma, and the tail; but one or more of these parts is frequently wanting. See Illustration in Appendix.
- A celestial body, observed only in that part of its orbit that is relatively close to the sun, having a head consisting of a solid nucleus surrounded by a nebulous coma up to 2.4 million kilometers (1.5 million miles) in diameter and an elongated curved vapor tail arising from the coma when sufficiently close to the sun. Comets are thought to consist chiefly of ammonia, methane, carbon dioxide, and water.