Observational astronomy is a division of astronomy, concerned with recording data about the observable universe, in contrast with theoretical astronomy, concerned with calculating the measurable implications of physical models. It is the practice and study of observing celestial objects with the use of telescopes and other astronomical instruments; as a science, the study of astronomy is somewhat hindered in that direct experiments with the properties of the distant universe are not possible. However, this is compensated by the fact that astronomers have a vast number of visible examples of stellar phenomena that can be examined; this allows for observational data to be plotted on graphs, general trends recorded. Nearby examples of specific phenomena, such as variable stars, can be used to infer the behavior of more distant representatives; those distant yardsticks can be employed to measure other phenomena in that neighborhood, including the distance to a galaxy. Galileo Galilei recorded what he saw.
Since that time, observational astronomy has made steady advances with each improvement in telescope technology. A traditional division of observational astronomy is based on the region of the electromagnetic spectrum observed: Optical astronomy is the part of astronomy that uses optical instruments to observe light from near-infrared to near-ultraviolet wavelengths. Visible-light astronomy, using wavelengths detectable with the human eyes, falls in the middle of this spectrum. Infrared astronomy deals with the analysis of infrared radiation; the most common tool is the reflecting telescope, but with a detector sensitive to infrared wavelengths. Space telescopes are used at certain wavelengths where the atmosphere is opaque, or to eliminate noise. Radio astronomy detects radiation of millimetre to decametre wavelength; the receivers are similar to those used in radio broadcast transmission but much more sensitive. See Radio telescopes. High-energy astronomy includes X-ray astronomy, gamma-ray astronomy, extreme UV astronomy.
Occultation astronomy is the observation of the instant one celestial object occults or eclipses another. Multi-chord asteroid occultation observations measure the profile of the asteroid to the kilometre level. In addition to using electromagnetic radiation, modern astrophysicists can make observations using neutrinos, cosmic rays or gravitational waves. Observing a source using multiple methods is known as multi-messenger astronomy. Optical and radio astronomy can be performed with ground-based observatories, because the atmosphere is transparent at the wavelengths being detected. Observatories are located at high altitudes so as to minimise the absorption and distortion caused by the Earth's atmosphere; some wavelengths of infrared light are absorbed by water vapor, so many infrared observatories are located in dry places at high altitude, or in space. The atmosphere is opaque at the wavelengths used by X-ray astronomy, gamma-ray astronomy, UV astronomy and far infrared astronomy, so observations must be carried out from balloons or space observatories.
Powerful gamma rays can, however be detected by the large air showers they produce, the study of cosmic rays is a expanding branch of astronomy. For much of the history of observational astronomy all observation was performed in the visual spectrum with optical telescopes. While the Earth's atmosphere is transparent in this portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, most telescope work is still dependent on seeing conditions and air transparency, is restricted to the night time; the seeing conditions depend on thermal variations in the air. Locations that are cloudy or suffer from atmospheric turbulence limit the resolution of observations; the presence of the full Moon can brighten up the sky with scattered light, hindering observation of faint objects. For observation purposes, the optimal location for an optical telescope is undoubtedly in outer space. There the telescope can make observations without being affected by the atmosphere. However, at present it remains costly to lift telescopes into orbit.
Thus the next best locations are certain mountain peaks that have a high number of cloudless days and possess good atmospheric conditions. The peaks of the islands of Mauna Kea, Hawaii and La Palma possess these properties, as to a lesser extent do inland sites such as Llano de Chajnantor, Cerro Tololo and La Silla in Chile; these observatory locations have attracted an assemblage of powerful telescopes, totalling many billion US dollars of investment. The darkness of the night sky is an important factor in optical astronomy. With the size of cities and human populated areas expanding, the amount of artificial light at night has increased; these artificial lights produce a diffuse background illumination that makes observation of faint astronomical features difficult without special filters. In a few locations such as the state of Arizona and in the United Kingdom, this has led to campaigns for the reduction of light pollution; the use of hoods around street lights not only improves the amount of light directed toward the ground, but helps reduce the light directed toward the sky.
Atmospheric effects can hinder the resolution of a telescope. Without some means of correcting for the blurring effect of the shifting atmosphere, teles
The asteroid belt is the circumstellar disc in the Solar System located between the orbits of the planets Mars and Jupiter. It is occupied by numerous irregularly shaped bodies called minor planets; the asteroid belt is termed the main asteroid belt or main belt to distinguish it from other asteroid populations in the Solar System such as near-Earth asteroids and trojan asteroids. About half the mass of the belt is contained in the four largest asteroids: Ceres, Vesta and Hygiea; the total mass of the asteroid belt is 4% that of the Moon, or 22% that of Pluto, twice that of Pluto's moon Charon. Ceres, the asteroid belt's only dwarf planet, is about 950 km in diameter, whereas 4 Vesta, 2 Pallas, 10 Hygiea have mean diameters of less than 600 km; the remaining bodies range down to the size of a dust particle. The asteroid material is so thinly distributed that numerous unmanned spacecraft have traversed it without incident. Nonetheless, collisions between large asteroids do occur, these can produce an asteroid family whose members have similar orbital characteristics and compositions.
Individual asteroids within the asteroid belt are categorized by their spectra, with most falling into three basic groups: carbonaceous and metal-rich. The asteroid belt formed from the primordial solar nebula as a group of planetesimals. Planetesimals are the smaller precursors of the protoplanets. Between Mars and Jupiter, gravitational perturbations from Jupiter imbued the protoplanets with too much orbital energy for them to accrete into a planet. Collisions became too violent, instead of fusing together, the planetesimals and most of the protoplanets shattered; as a result, 99.9% of the asteroid belt's original mass was lost in the first 100 million years of the Solar System's history. Some fragments found their way into the inner Solar System, leading to meteorite impacts with the inner planets. Asteroid orbits continue to be appreciably perturbed whenever their period of revolution about the Sun forms an orbital resonance with Jupiter. At these orbital distances, a Kirkwood gap occurs. Classes of small Solar System bodies in other regions are the near-Earth objects, the centaurs, the Kuiper belt objects, the scattered disc objects, the sednoids, the Oort cloud objects.
On 22 January 2014, ESA scientists reported the detection, for the first definitive time, of water vapor on Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. The detection was made by using the far-infrared abilities of the Herschel Space Observatory; the finding was unexpected because comets, not asteroids, are considered to "sprout jets and plumes". According to one of the scientists, "The lines are becoming more and more blurred between comets and asteroids." In 1596, Johannes Kepler predicted “Between Mars and Jupiter, I place a planet” in his Mysterium Cosmographicum. While analyzing Tycho Brahe's data, Kepler thought that there was too large a gap between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. In an anonymous footnote to his 1766 translation of Charles Bonnet's Contemplation de la Nature, the astronomer Johann Daniel Titius of Wittenberg noted an apparent pattern in the layout of the planets. If one began a numerical sequence at 0 included 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, etc. doubling each time, added four to each number and divided by 10, this produced a remarkably close approximation to the radii of the orbits of the known planets as measured in astronomical units provided one allowed for a "missing planet" between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.
In his footnote, Titius declared "But should the Lord Architect have left that space empty? Not at all."When William Herschel discovered Uranus in 1781, the planet's orbit matched the law perfectly, leading astronomers to conclude that there had to be a planet between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. On January 1, 1801, Giuseppe Piazzi, chair of astronomy at the University of Palermo, found a tiny moving object in an orbit with the radius predicted by this pattern, he dubbed it "Ceres", after the Roman goddess of the patron of Sicily. Piazzi believed it to be a comet, but its lack of a coma suggested it was a planet. Thus, the aforementioned pattern, now known as the Titius–Bode law, predicted the semi-major axes of all eight planets of the time. Fifteen months Heinrich Olbers discovered a second object in the same region, Pallas. Unlike the other known planets and Pallas remained points of light under the highest telescope magnifications instead of resolving into discs. Apart from their rapid movement, they appeared indistinguishable from stars.
Accordingly, in 1802, William Herschel suggested they be placed into a separate category, named "asteroids", after the Greek asteroeides, meaning "star-like". Upon completing a series of observations of Ceres and Pallas, he concluded, Neither the appellation of planets nor that of comets, can with any propriety of language be given to these two stars... They resemble small stars so much. From this, their asteroidal appearance, if I take my name, call them Asteroids. By 1807, further investigation revealed two new objects in the region: Vesta; the burning of Lilienthal in the Napoleonic wars, where the main body of work had been done, brought this first period of discovery to a close. Despite Herschel's coinage, for several decades it remained common practice to refer to these objects as planets and to prefix t
Asteroids are minor planets of the inner Solar System. Larger asteroids have been called planetoids; these terms have been applied to any astronomical object orbiting the Sun that did not resemble a planet-like disc and was not observed to have characteristics of an active comet such as a tail. As minor planets in the outer Solar System were discovered they were found to have volatile-rich surfaces similar to comets; as a result, they were distinguished from objects found in the main asteroid belt. In this article, the term "asteroid" refers to the minor planets of the inner Solar System including those co-orbital with Jupiter. There exist millions of asteroids, many thought to be the shattered remnants of planetesimals, bodies within the young Sun's solar nebula that never grew large enough to become planets; the vast majority of known asteroids orbit within the main asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, or are co-orbital with Jupiter. However, other orbital families exist with significant populations, including the near-Earth objects.
Individual asteroids are classified by their characteristic spectra, with the majority falling into three main groups: C-type, M-type, S-type. These were named after and are identified with carbon-rich and silicate compositions, respectively; the sizes of asteroids varies greatly. Asteroids are differentiated from meteoroids. In the case of comets, the difference is one of composition: while asteroids are composed of mineral and rock, comets are composed of dust and ice. Furthermore, asteroids formed closer to the sun; the difference between asteroids and meteoroids is one of size: meteoroids have a diameter of one meter or less, whereas asteroids have a diameter of greater than one meter. Meteoroids can be composed of either cometary or asteroidal materials. Only one asteroid, 4 Vesta, which has a reflective surface, is visible to the naked eye, this only in dark skies when it is favorably positioned. Small asteroids passing close to Earth may be visible to the naked eye for a short time; as of October 2017, the Minor Planet Center had data on 745,000 objects in the inner and outer Solar System, of which 504,000 had enough information to be given numbered designations.
The United Nations declared 30 June as International Asteroid Day to educate the public about asteroids. The date of International Asteroid Day commemorates the anniversary of the Tunguska asteroid impact over Siberia, Russian Federation, on 30 June 1908. In April 2018, the B612 Foundation reported "It's 100 percent certain we'll be hit, but we're not 100 percent sure when." In 2018, physicist Stephen Hawking, in his final book Brief Answers to the Big Questions, considered an asteroid collision to be the biggest threat to the planet. In June 2018, the US National Science and Technology Council warned that America is unprepared for an asteroid impact event, has developed and released the "National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy Action Plan" to better prepare. According to expert testimony in the United States Congress in 2013, NASA would require at least five years of preparation before a mission to intercept an asteroid could be launched; the first asteroid to be discovered, was considered to be a new planet.
This was followed by the discovery of other similar bodies, with the equipment of the time, appeared to be points of light, like stars, showing little or no planetary disc, though distinguishable from stars due to their apparent motions. This prompted the astronomer Sir William Herschel to propose the term "asteroid", coined in Greek as ἀστεροειδής, or asteroeidēs, meaning'star-like, star-shaped', derived from the Ancient Greek ἀστήρ astēr'star, planet'. In the early second half of the nineteenth century, the terms "asteroid" and "planet" were still used interchangeably. Overview of discovery timeline: 10 by 1849 1 Ceres, 1801 2 Pallas – 1802 3 Juno – 1804 4 Vesta – 1807 5 Astraea – 1845 in 1846, planet Neptune was discovered 6 Hebe – July 1847 7 Iris – August 1847 8 Flora – October 1847 9 Metis – 25 April 1848 10 Hygiea – 12 April 1849 tenth asteroid discovered 100 asteroids by 1868 1,000 by 1921 10,000 by 1989 100,000 by 2005 ~700,000 by 2015 Asteroid discovery methods have improved over the past two centuries.
In the last years of the 18th century, Baron Franz Xaver von Zach organized a group of 24 astronomers to search the sky for the missing planet predicted at about 2.8 AU from the Sun by the Titius-Bode law because of the discovery, by Sir William Herschel in 1781, of the planet Uranus at the distance predicted by the law. This task required that hand-drawn sky charts be prepared for all stars in the zodiacal band down to an agreed-upon limit of faintness. On subsequent nights, the sky would be charted again and any moving object would be spotted; the expected motion of the missing planet was about 30 seconds of arc per hour discernible by observers. The first object, was not discovered by a member of the group, but rather by accident in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, director of the observatory of Palermo in Sicily, he discovered a new star-like object in Taurus and followed the displacement of this object during several nights. That year, Carl Friedrich Gauss used these observations to calculate the orbit of this unknown object, found to be between the planets Mars and Jupiter.
Piazzi named it after Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture. Three other asteroids (2 Pallas, 3 Juno, 4 Ves
A dwarf planet is a planetary-mass object, neither a true planet nor a natural satellite. That is, it is in direct orbit of a star, is massive enough for its gravity to compress it into a hydrostatically equilibrious shape, but has not cleared the neighborhood of other material around its orbit; the term dwarf planet was adopted in 2006 as part of a three-way categorization of bodies orbiting the Sun, brought about by an increase in discoveries of objects farther away from the Sun than Neptune that rivaled Pluto in size, precipitated by the discovery of an more massive object, Eris. The exclusion of dwarf planets from the roster of planets by the IAU has been both praised and criticized; as of July 2008 the International Astronomical Union recognizes five dwarf planets: Ceres in the asteroid belt, Pluto, Haumea and Eris in the outer Solar System. Only two of these bodies and Pluto, have been observed in enough detail to demonstrate that they fit the IAU's definition; the IAU accepted Eris as a dwarf planet.
They subsequently decided that unnamed trans-Neptunian objects with an absolute magnitude brighter than +1 are to be named under the assumption that they are dwarf planets. At the time, the only additional bodies to meet this secondary criterion were Makemake. Starting in 1801, astronomers discovered Ceres and other bodies between Mars and Jupiter which were for decades considered to be planets. Between and around 1851, when the number of planets had reached 23, astronomers started using the word asteroid for the smaller bodies and stopped naming or classifying them as planets. With the discovery of Pluto in 1930, most astronomers considered the Solar System to have nine planets, along with thousands of smaller bodies. For 50 years Pluto was thought to be larger than Mercury, but with the discovery in 1978 of Pluto's moon Charon, it became possible to measure Pluto's mass and to determine that it was much smaller than initial estimates, it was one-twentieth the mass of Mercury, which made Pluto by far the smallest planet.
Although it was still more than ten times as massive as the largest object in the asteroid belt, Ceres, it had one-fifth the mass of Earth's Moon. Furthermore, having some unusual characteristics, such as large orbital eccentricity and a high orbital inclination, it became evident that it was a different kind of body from any of the other planets. In the 1990s, astronomers began to find objects in the same region of space as Pluto, some farther away. Many of these shared several of Pluto's key orbital characteristics, Pluto started being seen as the largest member of a new class of objects, plutinos; this led. Several terms, including subplanet and planetoid, started to be used for the bodies now known as dwarf planets. By 2005, three trans-Neptunian objects comparable in size to Pluto had been reported, it became clear that either they would have to be classified as planets, or Pluto would have to be reclassified. Astronomers were confident that more objects as large as Pluto would be discovered, the number of planets would start growing if Pluto were to remain a planet.
Eris was discovered in January 2005. As a consequence, the issue became a matter of intense debate during the IAU General Assembly in August 2006; the IAU's initial draft proposal included Charon and Ceres in the list of planets. After many astronomers objected to this proposal, an alternative was drawn up by the Uruguayan astronomers Julio Ángel Fernández and Gonzalo Tancredi: they proposed an intermediate category for objects large enough to be round but which had not cleared their orbits of planetesimals. Dropping Charon from the list, the new proposal removed Pluto and Eris, because they have not cleared their orbits; the IAU's final Resolution 5A preserved this three-category system for the celestial bodies orbiting the Sun. It reads: Although concerns were raised about the classification of planets orbiting other stars, the issue was not resolved; the term dwarf planet has itself been somewhat controversial, as it could imply that these bodies are planets, much as dwarf stars are stars.
This is the conception of the Solar System. The older word planetoid has no such connotation, is used by astronomers for bodies that fit the IAU definition. Brown states that planetoid is "a good word", used for these bodies for years, that the use of the term dwarf planet for a non-planet is "dumb", but that it was motivated by an attempt by the IAU division III plenary session to reinstate Pluto as a planet in a second resolution. Indeed, the draft of Resolution 5A had called these median bodies planetoids, but the plenary session voted unanimously to change the name to dwarf planet; the second resolution, 5B, defined dwarf planets as a subtype of planet, as Stern had intended, distinguished from the other eight that were to be called "classical planets". Under this arrangement, the twelve planets of the rejected proposal were to be preserved in a distinction between eight classical planets and four dwarf planets. Resolution 5B was defeated in the same session; because of the semantic inconsistenc
YouTube is an American video-sharing website headquartered in San Bruno, California. Three former PayPal employees—Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, Jawed Karim—created the service in February 2005. Google bought the site in November 2006 for US$1.65 billion. YouTube allows users to upload, rate, add to playlists, comment on videos, subscribe to other users, it offers a wide variety of corporate media videos. Available content includes video clips, TV show clips, music videos and documentary films, audio recordings, movie trailers, live streams, other content such as video blogging, short original videos, educational videos. Most of the content on YouTube is uploaded by individuals, but media corporations including CBS, the BBC, Hulu offer some of their material via YouTube as part of the YouTube partnership program. Unregistered users can only watch videos on the site, while registered users are permitted to upload an unlimited number of videos and add comments to videos. Videos deemed inappropriate are available only to registered users affirming themselves to be at least 18 years old.
YouTube and its creators earn advertising revenue from Google AdSense, a program which targets ads according to site content and audience. The vast majority of its videos are free to view, but there are exceptions, including subscription-based premium channels, film rentals, as well as YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, subscription services offering premium and ad-free music streaming, ad-free access to all content, including exclusive content commissioned from notable personalities; as of February 2017, there were more than 400 hours of content uploaded to YouTube each minute, one billion hours of content being watched on YouTube every day. As of August 2018, the website is ranked as the second-most popular site in the world, according to Alexa Internet. YouTube has faced criticism over aspects of its operations, including its handling of copyrighted content contained within uploaded videos, its recommendation algorithms perpetuating videos that promote conspiracy theories and falsehoods, hosting videos ostensibly targeting children but containing violent and/or sexually suggestive content involving popular characters, videos of minors attracting pedophilic activities in their comment sections, fluctuating policies on the types of content, eligible to be monetized with advertising.
YouTube was founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal. Hurley had studied design at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Chen and Karim studied computer science together at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. According to a story, repeated in the media and Chen developed the idea for YouTube during the early months of 2005, after they had experienced difficulty sharing videos, shot at a dinner party at Chen's apartment in San Francisco. Karim did not attend the party and denied that it had occurred, but Chen commented that the idea that YouTube was founded after a dinner party "was very strengthened by marketing ideas around creating a story, digestible". Karim said the inspiration for YouTube first came from Janet Jackson's role in the 2004 Super Bowl incident, when her breast was exposed during her performance, from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Karim could not find video clips of either event online, which led to the idea of a video sharing site.
Hurley and Chen said that the original idea for YouTube was a video version of an online dating service, had been influenced by the website Hot or Not. Difficulty in finding enough dating videos led to a change of plans, with the site's founders deciding to accept uploads of any type of video. YouTube began as a venture capital-funded technology startup from an $11.5 million investment by Sequoia Capital and an $8 million investment from Artis Capital Management between November 2005 and April 2006. YouTube's early headquarters were situated above a pizzeria and Japanese restaurant in San Mateo, California; the domain name www.youtube.com was activated on February 14, 2005, the website was developed over the subsequent months. The first YouTube video, titled Me at the zoo, shows co-founder Jawed Karim at the San Diego Zoo; the video was uploaded on April 23, 2005, can still be viewed on the site. YouTube offered the public a beta test of the site in May 2005; the first video to reach one million views was a Nike advertisement featuring Ronaldinho in November 2005.
Following a $3.5 million investment from Sequoia Capital in November, the site launched on December 15, 2005, by which time the site was receiving 8 million views a day. The site grew and, in July 2006, the company announced that more than 65,000 new videos were being uploaded every day, that the site was receiving 100 million video views per day. According to data published by market research company comScore, YouTube is the dominant provider of online video in the United States, with a market share of around 43% and more than 14 billion views of videos in May 2010. In May 2011, 48 hours of new videos were uploaded to the site every minute, which increased to 60 hours every minute in January 2012, 100 hours every minute in May 2013, 300 hours every minute in November 2014, 400 hours every minute in February 2017; as of January 2012, the site had 800 million unique users a month. It is estimated that in 2007 YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000. According to third-party web analytics providers and SimilarWeb, YouTube is the second-most visited website in the world, as of December 2016.
A comet is an icy, small Solar System body that, when passing close to the Sun and begins to release gases, a process called outgassing. This produces a visible atmosphere or coma, sometimes a tail; these phenomena are due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind acting upon the nucleus of the comet. Comet nuclei range from a few hundred metres to tens of kilometres across and are composed of loose collections of ice and small rocky particles; the coma may be up to 15 times the Earth's diameter, while the tail may stretch one astronomical unit. If sufficiently bright, a comet may be seen from the Earth without the aid of a telescope and may subtend an arc of 30° across the sky. Comets have been recorded since ancient times by many cultures. Comets have eccentric elliptical orbits, they have a wide range of orbital periods, ranging from several years to several millions of years. Short-period comets originate in the Kuiper belt or its associated scattered disc, which lie beyond the orbit of Neptune.
Long-period comets are thought to originate in the Oort cloud, a spherical cloud of icy bodies extending from outside the Kuiper belt to halfway to the nearest star. Long-period comets are set in motion towards the Sun from the Oort cloud by gravitational perturbations caused by passing stars and the galactic tide. Hyperbolic comets may pass once through the inner Solar System before being flung to interstellar space; the appearance of a comet is called an apparition. Comets are distinguished from asteroids by the presence of an extended, gravitationally unbound atmosphere surrounding their central nucleus; this atmosphere has parts termed the tail. However, extinct comets that have passed close to the Sun many times have lost nearly all of their volatile ices and dust and may come to resemble small asteroids. Asteroids are thought to have a different origin from comets, having formed inside the orbit of Jupiter rather than in the outer Solar System; the discovery of main-belt comets and active centaur minor planets has blurred the distinction between asteroids and comets.
In the early 21st century, the discovery of some minor bodies with long-period comet orbits, but characteristics of inner solar system asteroids, were called Manx comets. They are still classified as comets, such as C/2014 S3. 27 Manx comets were found from 2013 to 2017. As of July 2018 there are 6,339 known comets, a number, increasing as they are discovered. However, this represents only a tiny fraction of the total potential comet population, as the reservoir of comet-like bodies in the outer Solar System is estimated to be one trillion. One comet per year is visible to the naked eye, though many of those are faint and unspectacular. Bright examples are called "great comets". Comets have been visited by unmanned probes such as the European Space Agency's Rosetta, which became the first to land a robotic spacecraft on a comet, NASA's Deep Impact, which blasted a crater on Comet Tempel 1 to study its interior; the word comet comētēs. That, in turn, is a latinisation of the Greek κομήτης, the Oxford English Dictionary notes that the term κομήτης meant "long-haired star, comet" in Greek.
Κομήτης was derived from κομᾶν, itself derived from κόμη and was used to mean "the tail of a comet". The astronomical symbol for comets is ☄; the solid, core structure of a comet is known as the nucleus. Cometary nuclei are composed of an amalgamation of rock, water ice, frozen carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and ammonia; as such, they are popularly described as "dirty snowballs" after Fred Whipple's model. However, some comets may have a higher dust content, leading them to be called "icy dirtballs". Research conducted in 2014 suggests that comets are like "deep fried ice cream", in that their surfaces are formed of dense crystalline ice mixed with organic compounds, while the interior ice is colder and less dense; the surface of the nucleus is dry, dusty or rocky, suggesting that the ices are hidden beneath a surface crust several metres thick. In addition to the gases mentioned, the nuclei contain a variety of organic compounds, which may include methanol, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde and ethane and more complex molecules such as long-chain hydrocarbons and amino acids.
In 2009, it was confirmed that the amino acid glycine had been found in the comet dust recovered by NASA's Stardust mission. In August 2011, a report, based on NASA studies of meteorites found on Earth, was published suggesting DNA and RNA components may have been formed on asteroids and comets; the outer surfaces of cometary nuclei have a low albedo, making them among the least reflective objects found in the Solar System. The Giotto space probe found that the nucleus of Halley's Comet reflects about four percent of the light that falls on it, Deep Space 1 discovered that Comet Borrelly's surface reflects less than 3.0%. The dark surface material of the nucleus may consist of complex organic compounds. Solar heating drives off lighter volatile compounds, leaving behind larger organic compounds that tend to be dark, like tar or crude oil; the low reflectivity of cometary surfaces causes them to absorb t