Large, Distant Comets More Common Than Previously Thought

 

NASA Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA’s WISE spacecraft, scanning the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, has delivered new insights about distant cometary wanderers.

Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many “long-period comets” will never approach the Sun in a person’s lifetime. In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud — a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun — can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.

nasa.gov: Large, Distant Comets More Common Than Previously Thought