Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



IRON AND ICE
Large, Distant Comets More Common Than Previously Thought
by Elizabeth Landau for JPL News
Pasadena CA (JPL) Jul 26, 2017


"Our results mean there's an evolutionary difference between Jupiter family and long-period comets," Bauer said.

Comets that take more than 200 years to make one revolution around the Sun are notoriously difficult to study. Because they spend most of their time far from our area of the solar system, many "long-period comets" will never approach the Sun in a person's lifetime. In fact, those that travel inward from the Oort Cloud - a group of icy bodies beginning roughly 186 billion miles (300 billion kilometers) away from the Sun - can have periods of thousands or even millions of years.

NASA's WISE spacecraft, scanning the entire sky at infrared wavelengths, has delivered new insights about these distant wanderers. Scientists found that there are about seven times more long-period comets measuring at least 0.6 miles (1 kilometer) across than had been predicted previously. They also found that long-period comets are on average up to twice as large as "Jupiter family comets," whose orbits are shaped by Jupiter's gravity and have periods of less than 20 years.

Researchers also observed that in eight months, three to five times as many long-period comets passed by the Sun than had been predicted. The findings are published in the Astronomical Journal.

"The number of comets speaks to the amount of material left over from the solar system's formation," said James Bauer, lead author of the study and now a research professor at the University of Maryland, College Park. "We now know that there are more relatively large chunks of ancient material coming from the Oort Cloud than we thought."

The Oort Cloud is too distant to be seen by current telescopes, but is thought to be a spherical distribution of small icy bodies at the outermost edge of the solar system. The density of comets within it is low, so the odds of comets colliding within it are rare. Long-period comets that WISE observed probably got kicked out of the Oort Cloud millions of years ago. The observations were carried out during the spacecraft's primary mission before it was renamed NEOWISE and reactivated to target near-Earth objects (NEOs).

"Our study is a rare look at objects perturbed out of the Oort Cloud," said Amy Mainzer, study co-author based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and principal investigator of the NEOWISE mission. "They are the most pristine examples of what the solar system was like when it formed."

Astronomers already had broader estimates of how many long-period and Jupiter family comets are in our solar system, but had no good way of measuring the sizes of long-period comets. That is because a comet has a "coma," a cloud of gas and dust that appears hazy in images and obscures the cometary nucleus.

But by using the WISE data showing the infrared glow of this coma, scientists were able to "subtract" the coma from the overall comet and estimate the nucleus sizes of these comets. The data came from 2010 WISE observations of 95 Jupiter family comets and 56 long-period comets.

The results reinforce the idea that comets that pass by the Sun more often tend to be smaller than those spending much more time away from the Sun. That is because Jupiter family comets get more heat exposure, which causes volatile substances like water to sublimate and drag away other material from the comet's surface as well.

"Our results mean there's an evolutionary difference between Jupiter family and long-period comets," Bauer said.

The existence of so many more long-period comets than predicted suggests that more of them have likely impacted planets, delivering icy materials from the outer reaches of the solar system.

Researchers also found clustering in the orbits of the long-period comets they studied, suggesting there could have been larger bodies that broke apart to form these groups.

The results will be important for assessing the likelihood of comets impacting our solar system's planets, including Earth.

"Comets travel much faster than asteroids, and some of them are very big," Mainzer said. "Studies like this will help us define what kind of hazard long-period comets may pose."

Research paper

IRON AND ICE
Bizarro comet challenging researchers
Orlando FL (SPX) Jul 06, 2017
Scientists pursue research through observation, experimentation and modeling. They strive for all of these pieces to fit together, but sometimes finding the unexpected is even more exciting. That's what happened to University of Central Florida's astrophysicist Gal Sarid, who studies comets, asteroids and planetary formation and earlier this year was part of a team that published a study focused ... read more

Related Links
WISE at NASA
Asteroid and Comet Mission News, Science and Technology


Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once


credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly


paypal only

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

IRON AND ICE
Soyuz rocket rolled out, ready to launch

Astronauts gear up for space with tough Russian training

Russian sanctions won't affect cooperation in space

NASA Offers Space Station as Catalyst for Discovery in Washington

IRON AND ICE
Vega to launch two Earth Observation Satellites for Italy, Israel and France

Three Up, Three Down as NASA Tests RS-25 Flight Controller

Iran in 'successful' test of satellite-launch rocket

Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 Flight Controller Goes Three for Three in SLS Test

IRON AND ICE
Portals to new worlds: Martian exploration near the North Pole

For Moratorium on Sending Commands to Mars, Blame the Sun

Tributes to wetter times on Mars

Opportunity will spend three weeks at current location due to Solar Conjunction

IRON AND ICE
China develops sea launches to boost space commerce

Chinese satellite Zhongxing-9A enters preset orbit

Chinese Space Program: From Setback, to Manned Flights, to the Moon

Chinese Rocket Fizzles Out, Puts Other Launches on Hold

IRON AND ICE
Good Night, Lisa Pathfinder

A Final Farewell to LISA Pathfinder

ASTROSCALE Raises a Total of $25 Million in Series C Led by Private Companies

LISA Pathfinder: bake, rattle and roll

IRON AND ICE
Multitasking monolayers

Writing with the electron beam: Now in silver

Scientists announce the quest for high-index materials

A new synthesis route for alternative catalysts of noble metals

IRON AND ICE
SETI Institute-Unistellar Partnership Promises to Revolutionize Amateur Astronomy

Holographic imaging could sample and identify living microbes in the outer solar system

Why looking for aliens is good for society

Breakthrough Starshot launches tiny spacecraft in quest for Alpha Centauri

IRON AND ICE
New Horizons Video Soars over Pluto's Majestic Mountains and Icy Plains

Juno spots Jupiter's Great Red Spot

New evidence in support of the Planet Nine hypothesis

NASA's New Horizons Team Strikes Gold in Argentina




Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News






The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2017 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement