Last update: 2017-02-20 11:21 UTC
Search for Comets
Current number of known Comets:


Comets are small Solar System bodies which display episodes of emission and outgassing during at least part of their orbits, due to the existence of volatile molecules at or near their surfaces, which sublimate when heated by solar radiation. They are thought to be the icy remnants of the early phases of the outer planets formation. They are among the most dynamically complex objects in the Solar System, entering the inner planetary region either from a distant repository located at about 50 000 au from the Sun or diffusing chaotically from the trans-Neptunian belt.

Cometary collisions with the planets may be responsible for a fraction of the water present on Earth, and for the icy reservoirs that are thought to exist at the bottom of permanently shadowed craters on the Moon.

Near-Earth Comets (NECs) are define as comets having a period of revolution shorter than 200 years and a perihelion distance smaller than 1.3 au, thus allowing close approaches to the Earth. Their number is presently around 100, slowly increasing with time (1 or 2 entries per year). The chances for small comets to actually impact the Earth are in general significantly lower than those of near-Earth asteroids.

The NEO Coordination Centre has adopted as authoritative source of data the comet catalogue maintained by JPL and kindly made available to ESA. 

By using the NEOCC search functionalities it is possible to display, for each comet, information such as orbital elements, date of the next perihelion passage, orbit type (i.e. periodic, non-periodic, disappeared or historical apparition) and whether the comet belongs to the NEC group. Orbit visualization is also possible from the comet summary page.
Due to the often complex naming convention for comets, wildcards are added to each query by default, thus allowing to refine the search on a shorter list. This applies also when a fragmentation has occurred, since each fragment is considered as an individual comet and named in accordance with the IAU rules.
Additional information on comets can be found at:
Near-Earth comets orbital elements
Minor Planet Centre ephemerides of observable comets
JPL Solar System Dynamics comet data
Gary Kronk's Cometography
Tumbling Stone dictionary: Comet

Comet C/2011 W3 (Lovejoy) over Santiago de Chile

Credits: Y. Beletski/ESO


Comet C/1995 O1 (Hale-Bopp), 1997

Credits: D. Koschny