Spectacular and mysterious objects that come and go in the night sky, comets have dwelt in our popular culture for untold ages. As remnants from the formation of the Solar system, they are objects of key scientific research and space missions. As one of nature's most potent and dramatic dangers, they pose a threat to our safety--and yet they were the origin of our oceans and perhaps even life itself. This beautifully illustrated book tells the story of the biggest and most awe-inspiring of all comets: those that have earned the title "Great." Robert Burnham focuses on the Great comets Hyakutake in 1996 and Hale-Bopp in 1997, which gripped attention worldwide because, for many, they were the first comets ever seen. He places these two recent comets in the context of their predecessors from past ages, among them the famous Comet Halley. Great Comets explains the exciting new discoveries that have come from these magnificent objects and profiles the spaceprobes to comets due for launch in the next few years. The book even takes a peek behind Hollywood's science-fiction fantasies to assess the real risks humanity faces from potential impacts of both comets and asteroids.
For everyone interested in astronomy, this exciting book reveals the secrets of the Great Comets and provides essential tools for keeping up to date with comet discoveries in the future. Robert Burnham has been an amateur astronomer since the mid-1950s. He has been a senior editor of Astronomy magazine (1986-88) and is the author of many books and CD-ROMS, including Comet Hale-Bopp: Find and Enjoy the Great Comet and Comet Explorer.