Oort Cloud : The Mysterious Ice Shell Surrounding Our Solar System

In the coldest and darkest part of our solar system – a region untouched by human spacecraft – lies a strange cold cloud containing material from another star.

 For a few weeks in the summer of 2020, if you look up at the sky on a clear night, you may be able to spot a rare visitor to our solar system.

 When viewed using binoculars, this object is shaped like a classic comet – it has a brightly lit core and long tail, which is formed from ice that is blown up into gas by heat from the Sun.

He can be seen with the naked eye in northern Earth in early July. But suddenly he disappeare.

No one who saw the comet – which was named C/2002 F3 or Neowise – will see it again. So are their children.

 Or even several generations after the children of their children were born.

 In short, this comet will not be seen again for the next 6,800 years.

His brief trajectory was later remembered not for how long it would take him to cross Earth again. Many comets pass through the sky in the span of a human’s life.

Neowise is remembered for being thought to have originated in the least explored and most mysterious part of our solar system — the vast and frozen Oort Cloud.

The Oort cloud is in the furthest reaches of our solar system, beyond the asteroid belt and the gas giants, further than the frozen worlds of Uranus and Neptune, even beyond Pluto’s longest orbit.

The cloud lies beyond the edge of the heliosphere, the plasma bubble emitted by the Sun, which envelops our solar system and marks the boundary of interstellar space.

 Like an enormous shell, the Oort Cloud engulfs our solar system — not only along the space where planets, asteroids, and dwarf planets reside, but extending in all directions.

 The only problem is, we’re not entirely sure that this giant ice dome is really there.

Astronomers have never directly seen the Oort Cloud, and the furthest spacecraft ever sent by humans – Voyager 1 – won’t be there for another 300 years.

But new research and upcoming space missions are starting to reveal some of its mysteries. Visits from distant comets such as C/2002 F3 (Neowise) also provide some clues.

What is the Oort Cloud?

The Oort cloud was first predicted by Jan Oort in 1950 to explain the existence of comets like Neowise.

Unlike short-period comets, which generally take less than 200 years to orbit the Sun and originate from an icy disk outside Neptune called the Kuiper Belt, the origin of these much longer orbital comets is more difficult to explain.

Most comets with long periods take 200 to 1,000 years to orbit the Sun. They also have an unusual orbital shape, being very close to the Sun and then traveling very far away from it.

Oort theorizes that these comets may have come from an object shell, which is mostly made of rock and ice, and is located far beyond our solar system.

The shell of this enormous object is estimated to have formed about 306 billion kilometers to 756 billion kilometers from the Sun. This is equivalent to 2,000 to 5,000 times the distance from Earth to the Sun.

If the distance of 150 billion kilometers is 0.03-0.08 light years (or astronomical units – AU), some scientists estimate the distance of this cloud to be 100,000-200,000 AU.

“So far we have no other, more plausible explanation for the endlessly long-period comets we observe,” said Cyrielle Opitom, who studies comets and the solar system at the University of Edinburgh.

“When we reconstructed the orbits of the comets, they seemed to share the same aphelion – the furthest distance from the Sun -. That is, about 20,000 times the distance from the Sun to Earth, in what we call the Oort Cloud.”

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