|Like cats, comets usually have tails.|
Stock photo of Comet Hale-Bopp via AdobeStock.
Comets and cats have several things in common: They are somewhat mysterious. They have tails. They may hold secrets of the early universe.
Okay, I made that last part up a little bit, but there is no reason to think it might not be true (I refer you to the earlier sentence about cats being “somewhat mysterious”).
The tail part is absolutely, 100 percent correct though. Cats usually have tails. Comets* usually have tails—at least when they approach the sun and some of their ice vaporizes and trails behind, reflecting sunlight.
|A Manx cat. Note the obvious similarities to a comet.|
1895 illustration from The Cat, R. S. Huidekoper.
By Internet Archive Book Images via Wikimedia Commons.
But recently, astronomers announced the discovery of a tailless comet, the first of its kind (that we know of). They needed a name for this tailless type of comet, and naturally they turned to the world of cats and dubbed the comet…a Manx.
So now there is officially a type of comet named after a type of cat, which makes comets almost as cool as cats. Almost.
*A comet, according to Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, is a “nebulous celestial body that consists of a fuzzy head usually surrounding a bright nucleus, that often when in the part of its orbit near the sun develops a long tail which points away from the sun because of radiation pressure, that has an orbit varying in eccentricity between nearly round and parabolic, that has an inclination from zero to 180 degrees, and that has a period from three to thousands of years.”
Source (and sciencey stuff)
Reuters, “Astronomers find a tailless comet, first of its kind,” April 30, 2016. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-space-comet-idUSKCN0XQ2HZ