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Comets and asteroids
Comet Hale-Bopp

Hale-Bopp has a very large nucleus. (Most comet nuclei measure only 1.6 to 3.2 km, or 1-2 miles, in diameter.) It could be seen in the sky for a record 19 months from May 1996 to November 1997 and was visible through the bright skies of cities.


About the same age as the Sun: 4.5 billion years


Outer solar system, in the Oort Cloud

Avg. distance from the Sun

It has a highly elongated orbit that takes it very close to the Sun and then flings it out into the outer solar system, well past the orbit of Pluto.


The diameter of the nucleus has been estimated to be 40-80 km (25-50 miles).


Not determined

Orbital period around the Sun

2,392 Earth years

Comet Hale-Bopp (image courtesy of Alessandro Dimai)

Enlarge Image


"Fast Facts: Comet Hale-Bopp" is a table that lists the comet's age, location, average distance from the Sun, diameter, mass, orbital period around the Sun, and distinguishing features. A picture of the comet is included.

Printer-friendly web page
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, asteroids, and comets 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: "Hale-Bopp Observations with Hubble and IUE Surprise Astronomers"

HubbleSite press release: "Hubble Sees Material Ejected from Comet Hale-Bopp"

Amazing Space resources by topic: Solar system