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Comets and asteroids
Comet 9P/Tempel 1

Comet 9P/Tempel 1 was discovered in 1867 by Ernest Wilhelm Leberecht Tempel. The comet is called Tempel 1 because it was the first comet discovered by Tempel. It was also the ninth comet ever to be identified as periodic, which gives it the "9P" designation.


About the same age as the Sun: 4.5 billion years


Its elliptical orbit is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Avg. distance from the Sun

Roughly between 227.9 million kilometers (141.6 million miles) and 778.3 million kilometers (483.6 million miles) from the Sun. Gravitational interactions with the planet Jupiter have altered and will continue to alter the comet's path. However, its orbit is expected to remain between Mars and Jupiter.


The nucleus is more potato-shaped than spherical. Tempel 1's size is estimated to be 14 kilometers by 4 kilometers by 4 kilometers (8.7 miles by 2.5 miles by 2.5 miles). This means its volume is roughly the same as that of a sphere, 6.8 kilometers (4.2 miles) across.


Between 0.1 and 2.5 x 1014 kilograms

Orbital period around the Sun

5.5 Earth years

Distinguishing fact

On July 4, 2005, a man-made probe was intentionally crashed into the comet, in an attempt to release the primordial material trapped below Tempel 1's crust.

This image of comet 9P/Tempel 1's nucleus was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope on June 14, 2005, from 80 million miles away.

Enlarge Image


"Fast Facts: Comet 9P/Tempel 1" is a table that lists the comet's age, location, average distance from the Sun, diameter, mass, orbital period around the Sun, and other distinguishing facts. A picture of the comet is included.

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Adaptable, at teacher's discretion
How to use in the classroom

Use this resource as:

A source of information. Read the table to find out about this object.

A large-number recognition activity. Have students review several solar system Fast Fact tables, including this one. Ask them to place the objects described in the Fast Fact tables in order, starting with the object closest to Earth and ending with the one farthest away. Students can arrange the Sun, planets, comets, and asteroids from smallest to largest mass and/or diameter.

A compare/contrast activity. Have students review several Fast Facts tables for asteroids and comets. Students can create graphic organizers comparing the features of asteroids with those of comets.

An inquiry tool. Have students write down questions they would like answered about the image and the information in the Fast Facts table.

An engagement tool. Involve students in a discussion.

Related materials

HubbleSite press release: "Hubble Captures Deep Impact's Collision with Comet"

Amazing Space resources by topic: Solar system