Where Do Comets Come from
WHERE DO COMETS COME FROM?
Comets are thought to have formed in the outer solar system. Two sources have been identified for the comets that are seen today: the Oort cloud and the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt (also known simply as the Kuiper belt). The Oort cloud is a roughly spherical shell located about a third of the distance to the nearest star. The Kuiper belt is a disk-like distribution of icy bodies extending beyond Pluto's orbit. Most bright new comets, such as Comet Hale-Bopp, come from the Oort cloud and have orbits that are highly inclined with respect to Earth's orbit. Most short-period or Jupiter-family comets have low inclination orbits (i.e., their orbits lie nearly in the same plane as Earth's orbit) and are believed to originate in the Kuiper belt.