This is an illustration of what the Oort cloud might be like.
Click on image for full size
Where do comets come from?
Mathematical theory suggests that most comets may come to the solar system from very far away. In this picture, the solar system is buried deep within the cloud.
An AU is the distance from the earth to the sun and is about 100,000,000 miles. Mars is 1.5 AU from the sun, Jupiter is 5 AU from the sun, and Pluto is 39 AU from the sun. So comets come from very far away indeed.
Comets come in to the solar system from all directions.
But some comets may come to the solar system from closer in.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
, full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science, as well as books
on science education!
You might also be interested in:
There are lots of small worlds at the edge of our Solar System. They are made of ice and rock. They are further away from the Sun than most planets. They are further away than the 8th planet, Neptune....more
When comets are kicked out of the Oort Cloud, they begin a passage into the solar system, spinning and tumbling as they come. As the comet comes closer to the sun, near the region of space occupied by...more
Stardust is the name of a space mission that studied a comet. Stardust flew very close to the comet in January 2004. It took some very good pictures of the nucleus of the comet. It also grabbed some dust...more
Comet Hale-Bopp was one of the brightest comets of all time. Astronomers witnessed the comet spew out intermittent bursts of dust. The surface seemed to be an incredibly dynamic place, with 'vents' being...more
Six spacecraft flew to Halley's comet in 1986. There were two spacecraft launched from Japan, named Suisei and Sakigake, and two from the Soviet Union, named Vega 1 & 2. One spacecraft, ICE, was from the...more
Astronomers have noticed a group of comets which they call the Jupiter Family of Comets. This family of comets is to be found circling between Jupiter and the sun, as shown in this picture. The comets...more
Scientists have learned a great deal from the crash of comet Shoemaker-Levy 9. Scientists traced the orbit of the comet backwards in time to guess its origin. The crash of a comet like Shoemaker-Levy 9...more