Some comets orbit the Sun on a regular basis, but others come in from deep space, a region known as the Oort Cloud. What causes them to make this journey, and will we ever be able to explore the Oort Cloud?
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Before I get into this episode, I want to remind everyone that it’s been several decades since I’ve been able to enjoy a bright comet in the night sky. I’ve seen mind blowing auroras, and witnessed a total solar eclipse with my own eyeballs. The Universe needs to deliver this bright comet for me, and it needs to do it soon.
By recording this video now, I will summon it. I will create a video that’ll be hilariously out of date in a few months, when that bright comet shows up.
Like that time we totally discovered a supernova in the Virtual Star Party, by saying there wasn’t a supernova in that galaxy, but there was, and we didn’t get to make the discovery.
Anyway, on to the episode. Let’s talk about comets.
Comets are awesome. They’re made of gas, dust, rock, and organic materials, smashed together, and existing mostly unchanged since the formation of the Solar System 4.5 billion years ago. Every now and then, some gravitational interaction kicks a comet into an orbit that brings it closer to the Sun.
Because of the increased radiation, the comet’s volatile gas and dust sublimates off the surface, leaving behind a long tail of ice. And this is how we discover them.
In fact, comets are one of the objects in the night sky regularly found by amateurs. And by discovering a comet, you get to have it named after you. Of course many of the comets are named after robotic observatories, just another way the robots are taking human jobs.