It Came From Oort

  • Released Thursday, February 21st, 2013
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:52PM

Comet Pan-STARRS may soon be visible to the naked eye. Scientists predict this icy body will be observable in the night sky next month as it loops around the sun and passes within 100 million miles of our planet. The comet is thought to have come from a distant region of space, beyond Pluto, known as the Oort cloud. Back in Oort, it was just another hunk of floating cosmic debris—a frozen cocktail of volatile gases and stellar dust. But as the object neared the inner solar system, heat and energy from the sun transformed its anatomy, adding a long tail to its defunct shape. The best time to see Comet Pan-STARRS is in mid-March, when it will appear in the western sky just after sunset. Watch the video to learn more about this comet and its journey through space.

In the night sky, the comet will potentially appear as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper.

In the night sky, the comet will potentially appear as bright as the stars of the Big Dipper.

These first images taken of the comet show it traveling through space.

These first images taken of the comet show it traveling through space.

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Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
Science@NASA and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Cover image courtesy of European Southern Observatory
Comet image 1 courtesy of Michael Mattiazzo
Comet image 2 courtesy of Joseph Brimacombe/Coral Towers Observatory
Comet image 3 courtesy of Henry Hsieh/PS1SC
Telescope image courtesy of Rob Ratkowski