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Science, Evolution, and Creationism, by the National Academies, focuses on teaching evolution in today's classrooms. Check out the other publications in our online store.

Exploratour - Evolution of the Solar System

This is an illustration of what the Oort cloud might be like.
Click on image for full size
JPL

Besides planets and moons, the solar system contains comets and asteroids. The place from which the comets come is thought to be a giant sphere surrounding the solar system. This sphere is called the Oort cloud. It is named after a scientist called Jan Oort who first thought of the idea in 1950. Thus comets are said to come from the Oort cloud.

The Oort cloud is 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 roughly equivalent to 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. The Oort cloud is 100,000 AU away. So comets come from very far away indeed.

It is natural to ask "How did comets get so far away?" Astronomers are presently working to understand the answer to that question. This is one reason NASA studies comets.



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Our online store includes fun classroom activities for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!

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Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

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ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Look at the bed below the body of the sleeping man. You can still see where he was lying down. The heat from his body warmed up the bed sheets which are now radiating infrared light toward your eyes....more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

All warm objects (not just people) release infrared light. Warmer objects give off more infrared light. Very hot objects radiate other types of light as well. Click on the picture to see the infrared...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

What kinds of light can people see? Our eyes can see visible light. When it passes into our eyes different types of visible light create different sensations that we see as colors. ...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

Imagine you found a pair of special glasses that not only gave you telescopic vision but gave you the ability to see all forms of radiant energy. The universe in visible light contains all the familiar...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a volcano on the island of Miyake in Japan. It has erupted, sending hot lava and ash into the air, a total of ten times. The time after one eruption until the next occurred was about twenty years...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a picture of a galaxy in visible light. A galaxy is a large number of stars, some like our sun, some bigger, some smaller and all moving together through space. This galaxy is called Centaurus...more

ExploraTour - Looking at the World in a Different Light

This is a plant in Gary, Indiana where power is made. We use power to run things like television sets, radios, lights, and microwave ovens. The picture looks very strange because it was taken in infrared....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part is sponsored in part through grants from federal agencies (NASA and NOAA), and partnerships with affiliated organizations, including the American Geophysical Union, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Earth System Information Partnership, the American Meteorological Society, the National Center for Science Education, and TERC. The American Geophysical Union and the American Geosciences Institute are Windows to the Universe Founding Partners. NESTA welcomes new Institutional Affiliates in support of our ongoing programs, as well as collaborations on new projects. Contact NESTA for more information. NASA ESIP NCSE HHMI AGU AGI AMS NOAA