Comets are so exciting to learn about. We often bundle ourselves up, sit by the campfire and patiently wait many times a year for various meteor showers. These showers happen when Earth passes through the debris field of a comet’s orbit.
In a previous mini-maker activity we made tennis ball comets as we learned about their tails (yes, plural), and some terminology astronomers use when talking about comets – but what do comets look like? What do comets feel like? What are comets made of?
In this mini-maker activity, you will get to find out! We will make our own comet, one that is so cold that the heat from a hair dryer can even make a tail to look at!
You will need one very special item for this project – dry ice. I found our dry ice at a local grocery store, but I have seen it sold at Walmart and Cash n Carry. Ask the butcher if your store has any, or if they know where you can get some. Typically it costs about $1 a pound. This project uses 5-10 pounds, but you can make dry ice-ice cream with leftovers!
Learning about comets
(Aka great talking points for you while you are engaged in the project)
Dirty Snowballs: That is one easy way to remember what comets look like. It also reminds us that comets are a mix of rock, dust, water ice and frozen gasses.
Meteor Showers: Outgassing from comets leaves a trail of debris in its wake. As Earth orbits through that debris field we get meteor showers. This is why meteor showers are annual occurrences always originating from the same spot in space!
Mark Twain: Mark Twain’s life and death were marked by Halley’s comet.
Comet Craters: It might be well known that comets create craters, but some comets are so large they can have craters themselves. It is difficult to find such comets, however, since the surface changes so rapidly that impact evidence sublimates away!