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Comets



Comets
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 8
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.24

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    coma, solar, billion, system, atmosphere, nucleus, gravity, orbit, basis, outer, meteor, visible, occur, however, winds, outward
     content words:    Edmund Halley


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Comets
By Cindy Grigg
  

1     Our solar system consists of the sun and the eight planets. But that's not all. Comets also are bound by gravity to orbit around our sun. They are part of the solar system, too.
 
2     A comet is an icy body that orbits the sun. At the center of a comet is a small, solid ball called a nucleus. It is made of several gases, water, and dust that are frozen into a kind of dirty snowball. Sometimes it can also be made of rock. The nucleus is only a few kilometers or a few miles in diameter. A cloud of dust and gases called a coma surrounds the nucleus. Together, the nucleus and the coma form the comet's head.
 
3     When the comet is far from the sun, it travels at about 2,000 miles per hour. As it gets closer to the sun, its speed increases. It may travel at over 100,000 miles per hour! As a comet approaches the sun, its icy body begins to melt, releasing gas and dust. The solar winds push against the coma, making a tail that streams from the nucleus. The tail of a comet may extend millions of kilometers into space. It is usually curved because of the movement of the comet.

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