Comet McNaught

Comet McNaught C/2006 P1 is regarded as one of the brightest comets to have been visible in the past 40 years.

The comet was intially discovered on August 7, 2006 by British-Australian astronomer Robert H. McNaught.

This comet is regarded as 'non-periodic' meaning that it's orbit is so large that it won't be returning anytime soon or perhaps for ever.


25th of January 2007 at about 9.30pm at 15 second exposure. image: R.Conan-Davies

The comet came closest to the sun on January 12th 2007.

The tail of comet McNaught at some stages was measured at some 25° making it several tens of millions of kilometres long in space.

The reason a comet has such a huge tail is that most comets are made up of large amounts of ice. In a sense it is a bit like a massive iceberg in space but with a lot more dirt and rubble holding it together.

As the comet approaches the sun it is heated and some of the ice in the comet melts. It is thought that these bits of heated ice produce jets and create that tail of dust, vapour and debris we see.