Anatomy of a Comet


Remnants left over from the earliest formation of our solar system, comets are thought to originate from the theoretical Oort Cloud. Located far out beyond even the farthest planet, it is thought to contain as many as 2 trillion objects, each of which has the potential to become a long-period comet. These objects are often referred to as “dirty snowballs” because they are mostly made of rock and ice until gravity from a large passing celestial body, like a star, pulls a piece out of the Oort belt and starts it on its journey toward the sun. Heat from the sun begins to melt the ice, which becomes the trademark tail that can be seen extending away from the sun, pushed out by the solar wind. Gravity from planets, our sun, and other stars keep the comet moving and can create an orbit which allows us to calculate when it will return.