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Comet Borrelly
Comet Borrelly as seen by Deep Space 1.
Comets:

Throughout history, people have been both awed and alarmed by comets, stars with "long hair" that appeared in the sky unannounced and unpredictably. We now know that comets are dirty-ice leftovers from the formation of our solar system around 4.6 billion years ago. They are among the least-changed objects in our solar system and, as such, may yield important clues about the formation of our solar system. We can predict the orbits of many of them, but not all.

Around a dozen "new" comets are discovered each year. Short-period comets are more predictable because they take less than 200 years to orbit the Sun. Most come from a region of icy bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune. These icy bodies are variously called Kuiper Belt Objects, Edgeworth-Kuiper Belt Objects, or trans-Neptunian objects. Less predictable are long-period comets, many of which arrive from a distant region called the Oort cloud about 100,000 astronomical units (that is, 100,000 times the mean distance between Earth and the Sun) from the Sun. These comets can take as long as 30 million years to complete one trip around the Sun. (It takes Earth only 1 year to orbit the Sun.) As many as a trillion comets may reside in the Oort cloud, orbiting the Sun near the edge of the Sun's gravitational influence.

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