Oooh Aaah Oort Cloud!

Oort Cloud as a spherical envelope around our Solar System! Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Oort Cloud as a spherical envelope around our Solar System! Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Hello, Earthlings!

The Oort Cloud beyond the reaches of the Kuiper Belt is very fascinating and mysterious! Through its mysteriousness, there are several interesting facts about this region surrounding our tiny solar system!

Here are the top 7 facts about the Oort Cloud!

1-The Oort Cloud is thought ti be a spherical ball surrounding our solar system, with an estimated thickness that starts at about 2,000 – 5,000 AU (0.03 – 0.08 light years) from the Sun, and stretches to about 100,000 – 200,000 AU (1.58 – 3.16 light years) from the Sun.

2-The Oort cloud contains several TRILLION objects that are bigger than 1 km in diameter, and further on there are several billion objects that are around 20 km in diameter, with the typical distance between objects being on the order of a few tens of millions of km. That’s a lot of space!

3-Although the total mass of the Oort cloud is not known, calculations based on the mass of Halley’s Comet (a suspected Oort-cloud comet) yield a total mass of the objects in the Oort cloud of about 3×10^25 kilograms, which is roughly 5 times the mass of Earth!

4-Astronomers have used the observed orbits of long period comets, such as Halley’s Comet, as the basis for the notion that all long period comets, as well as “centaurs” and Jupiter-family comets, have their origin from the Oort cloud. 

5-The origin and chemical makeup of the Oort Cloud is still unknown!

6- Stars can actually pass through this Oort Cloud! The binary star designated WISE J072003.20-084651.2 (Scholz’s star) passed through the outer reaches of the Oort cloud about 70,000 years ago! Another star, Gliese 710, has the potential to dislodge large numbers of comets from the Oort cloud during the next 10 million years or so.

7-The Oort Cloud is “kneading,” meaning the Oort cloud is both stretched in one direction, and compressed in another direction by the tidal forces of the galactic gravitational field by the Milky Way!

Distance and relative thicknesses of our Solar System compared to the Oort Cloud! Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Distance and relative thicknesses of our Solar System compared to the Oort Cloud! Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Thank you for reading! I’ll be taking a planet-hopping trip next week, but I’ll be back soon for some awesome stories coming up!

Keep looking up!

Caitlin Ahrens