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Astronomers who study planet formation once believed that comets-because they remain mostly in the distant Oort cloud, where temperatures are close to absolute zero-must be pristine relics of the material that formed the outer planets. The conceptual shift away from seeing comets as pristine relics began in the 1970s, when laboratory simulations revealed there was sufficient ultraviolet radiation reaching comets to darken their surfaces and there were sufficient cosmic rays to alter chemical bonds or even molecular structure near the surface. Nevertheless, astronomers still believed that when a comet approached the Sun-where they could study it-the Sun`s intense heat would remove the corrupted surface layer, exposing the interior. About the same time, though, scientists realized comets might contain decaying radioactive isotopes that could have warmed cometary interiors to temperatures that caused the interiors to evolve.