Mystery of the gigantic Oort cloud from deep space explained

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      Astronomers have calculated the first 100 million years of the history of the gigantic Oort cloud – a theoretical entity that contains 100 billion or so comet-like objects and forms a giant spherical shell around the sun and the rest of the solar system. NASA describes it as “a big, thick-walled bubble made of icy pieces of space debris the sizes of mountains and sometimes larger.”

      The Oort cloud was named after Dutch astronomer Jan Hendrik Oort, who discovered it in the 1950s. He was looking to understand why some comets in the solar system have elongated orbits. Scientists now believe the Oort Cloud is the source of most such comets. The cloud is believed to be extremely far from the sun, many times more distant than the outer reaches of the Kuiper belt, the area of the solar system past the orbit of Neptune that contains comets, asteroids, and small icy space bodies as well as the dwarf planet Pluto.

      In a preprint article (accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics), a team of astronomers from Leiden University in the Netherlands describe how they used sophisticated computer simulations to determine how the Oort cloud formed. They took a new approach by starting from separate events that might have happened in the early days of the universe and connecting them together. This allowed them to map out the full history of the origins of the gargantuan cloud. As explained in their press release, the scientists used the ending calculations from one event as the starting calculation for the next event.

      Their simulations confirmed that the Oort cloud is what remained of the protoplanetary disk of gas and debris from which it is believed our solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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