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Comets are small bodies, often on elongated orbits around the Sun. They are composed of rocks and ices and are left-overs from the formation of the Solar System. This image, taken by the EPOXI mission in 2010, shows the nucleus of comet Hartley 2, about 2 km (1.2 mi) long. Jets of sublimating gases, entraining dust, is streaming out, as the comet approaches the Sun. They form the temporary atmosphere, or coma, and tails of the comet.

CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UMD.

Source:
http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA13600