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Comet Faye

Comet 4P/Faye

Unlike many periodic comets, Faye remains within the central regions of the Solar System. At its farthest extent from the Sun, it only reaches a distance of some six AU, carrying it just beyond the orbit of Jupiter before looping back towards the Sun. Its closest solar approach is a distance of 1.7 AU, just beyond the orbit of Mars.

Comet Faye belongs to the type known as short-period comets, completing its brief orbit much more rapidly than most objects of the same kind. A single orbit of the Sun takes Faye just 7 years and 157 days, compared with decades or centuries for comets with more extended orbits. Though it is now a resident of the inner parts of the Solar System, its nature as a comet means that it is very unlikely to have formed there. It probably originated in the distant Kuiper Belt, but was captured by the gravity of a planet as it passed through the inner Solar System.

This comet was discovered by French astronomer Hervé Faye in the yeat 1843, and because of its short-period nature, it has orbited the Sun many times since then. Its close approach of the year 2021 will be its twenty-fourth perihelion since its discovery. Even under optimum conditions, Comet Faye is difficult to observe. It is a tiny body - less than 4 km across - and its closest possible approach to Earth is about 100 million kilometres, meaning that it cannot be seen without a relatively powerful telescope.