Describe the observational differences between long-period and short-period comets


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Most comets have long, elliptical orbits with periods greater than 200 years and are known as long-period comets. The long-period comet orbits are randomly inclined to the plane of the solar system, so those comets approach the inner solar system from all directions. Long-period comets revolve around the Sun in about equal numbers in prograde orbits (the same direction in which the planets move) and retrograde orbits. In contrast, about 100 or so of the 600 well-studied comets have orbits with periods less than 200 years. These short-period comets usually follow orbits that lie within 30 degrees of the plane of the solar system, and most revolve around the Sun prograde.


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