Engraving entitled: "Calamities on Earth Associated with the Passage of Comets", from the 17th century. Before the invention of the telescope, comets seemed to appear out of nowhere in the sky and gradually vanish out of sight. They were usually considered bad omens of deaths of kings or noble men, or coming catastrophes, or even interpreted as attacks by heavenly beings against terrestrial inhabitants. A comet is a celestial object that orbits the Sun along an elongated path. A comet that is not near the Sun consists only of a nucleus, a solid core of frozen water, frozen gases, and dust. When a comet comes close to the Sun, its nucleus heats up and releases a gaseous coma that surrounds the nucleus. A comet forms a tail when solar heat or wind forces dust or gas off its coma, with the tail always streaming away from the Sun. Short-period comets have orbital periods of less than 200 years and come from the region known as the Kuiper belt. Long-period comets have periods greater than 200 years and come from the Oort cloud.