Fr.: activité cométaire
The appearance of → gas and → dust features from the rocky-icy nucleus of a comet when approaching the Sun (→ cometary atmosphere, → cometary tail). The → sublimation of → water can explain cometary activity at distances from the Sun up to about 4 → astronomical units. At larger distances, the average temperature of the → comet nucleus' surface is less than 140 K, too low for efficient sublimation of water → ice. However, there are many examples of cometary activity at larger distances. This can probably be due to the sublimation of more → volatile → chemical species. Indeed, radio spectroscopic observations of comets at large distances have revealed an important → outgassing of → carbon monoxide (CO), which can sublimate at temperatures as low as 25 K.