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Evidence For 200-Year-Old Comet Impact On Neptune

kdawson posted about 4 years ago | from the cold-case-file dept.

Space 83

astroengine writes "Astronomers using ESA's Herschel space observatory have spotted evidence of a cometary impact in Neptune's upper atmosphere (publication, PDF). Whereas impact craters on rocky planetary bodies can remain for billions of years, an impact in the dynamic atmospheres of gas giants aren't obvious, especially if long periods of time have elapsed. This ultimate 'cold case' tracked the unusual distribution of carbon monoxide in Neptune's stratosphere, a sure sign it was deposited there by an external source. Once they realized they were looking at a comet impact, researchers were able to deduce when the impact occurred: 200 years ago."

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83 comments

Uranus (-1, Troll)

Flyerman (1728812) | about 4 years ago | (#32973112)

This would be much more interesting if it was about Uranus.

Re:Uranus (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973444)

This would be much more interesting if it was about Uranus.

Uranus is full of gay niggers.

Barack Hussein Obama (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973178)

I agree with Fox "News".

This is just another way that Barack Obama is putting black people ahead of white people.

Obama is a racist. Fox "News" is doing us all a big service.

Re:Barack Hussein Obama (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973224)

shut up, nigger

Re:Barack Hussein Obama (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973334)

What's all the shit I hear about the right making up shit to instigate fights? The left has perfected this. To the point I think most of the "racists" in the tea party are plants from the Democratic party.

Re:Barack Hussein Obama (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973464)

even if they are, the real tea partiers embrace them so!

Re:Barack Hussein Obama (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973562)

Yeah, they embrace them hard right before they kick them out. I'm an educated black man and I have NEVER seen nor heard any racism at any tea party event but have heard plenty from liberals and democrats. I never had so many white, asian, hispanic, indian, and arab friends before I joined the tea party demonstrations.

John Lewis was proven to be a liar when video of his entire walk was checked and not a single incidence of racism was found.

If you're looking for racism you're looking in the wrong place.

Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973710)

That's funny, because I see coded racism every day on Fox "News", Rush Limbaugh, and all the other racist tea party heroes.

Not every person at a tea party is a racist, but almost every tea party has a few racists in attendance.

Some of them question Obama's birth certificate. Some rail against 'welfare queens'. Others just carry a gun, and let that do the talking. Some even claim that 'the other side', or the NAACP, by which they mean black folks are themselves racist. What did white southerners ever do to black people in America anyway??

They all have a racist coded message that anyone who stops to think about it would easily understand.

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973738)

And why can't that dipshit produce a birth certificate? Maybe because he's not and american stupid.

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973756)

Actually Mr Anonymous Troll, the birth certificate has been available for quite some time.

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973830)

they can put someone in a witness relocation program but some who controls the us gov can't forge a simple document?

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32974944)

He means the real one, you dumbfuck porch-monkey.

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973792)

Barack Obama has shown the same type of birth certificate that I showed to get my drivers license and passport.

How come all the white Presidents didn't have their American birth citizenship questioned by racist idiots?

As soon as a black guy shows up, you immediately assume he was born in Kenya despite overwhelming proof and documentation including a valid birth certificate??

Racism.

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (1)

LandGator (625199) | about 4 years ago | (#32986704)

WTF? Mod down, please.

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973774)

So anyone who questions the current administration or exercises their 2nd amendment rights is now a racist?

Yeah, you most certainly sound like a raving ass.

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (1, Troll)

blue trane (110704) | about 4 years ago | (#32973974)

those who questioned bush were "against us" after 911. What's good for the goose...

Re:Tea Party and Fox "News" Racists (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32974144)

Rush isn't a tea-party hero, so much as a bandwagon jumper--a derisive come-along who's as much a saboteur as anything else.

Re:Barack Hussein Obama (-1, Flamebait)

fuego451 (958976) | about 4 years ago | (#32974058)

"I'm an educated black man..."

You're neither. You're an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

Comet impact, that's nothing... (0, Offtopic)

nebaz (453974) | about 4 years ago | (#32973254)

On Earth ... 200 years ago ... I was a prince... with power over millions...

Take that, comet!

Re:Comet impact, that's nothing... (-1, Offtopic)

kitsunewarlock (971818) | about 4 years ago | (#32973454)

Why is this modded informative?

Re:Comet impact, that's nothing... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973566)

It is the result of a misguided notion that it's worth altering tone of the post so that the person making the quote can earn a karma point.

Re:Comet impact, that's nothing... (-1, Offtopic)

shadowbearer (554144) | about 4 years ago | (#32973660)

  Because some moderators don't know enough about what they are doing to mod it offtopic?

  Crap posts like the GP's and moderators that think they are relevant is why I've almost quit visiting this site anymore. The GP might have been trying to make a Funny, but it wasn't. Seriously, while it was a SF quote, it still had absolutely nothing to do with the subject. There are bots that do better.

  There are a lot of really intelligent, knowledgeable people who post on this site, but they are steadily being drowned out (and "moderated") by the same sorts of idiots who make other sites into shelters for ignorant, repetitive loudmouths.

  Don't care about karma, either, my karma has been "excellent" for many years no matter how my posts are moderated. It's a meaningless metric.

  I have better things to do. See ya.

SB

 

Re:Comet impact, that's nothing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32978106)

Irony FTW!!!

Re:Comet impact, that's nothing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973634)

Khaaaaaaaannnnn! At least I think that is the reference you were going for?

Smod up (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973276)

Impact probability (4, Interesting)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 4 years ago | (#32973324)

Note that this hypothesis is more plausible than it might seem at first glance since we've seen comets impact gas giants before. Most famously, in 1994 Shoemaker-Levy 9 was observed directly impacting on Jupiter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Shoemaker-Levy_9 [wikipedia.org] . This also isn't the first time this sort of technique has been used to detect historic comet impacts. As TFA notes, this technique was previously used to show that a similar event likely occurred around 230 years ago on Saturn.

Although comets hit the outer planets frequently, this is due to a variety of issues including the large size of the planets and the exact orbit of Jupiter (which makes Jupiter very effective at clearing interplanetary debris). Thus, this sort of situation doesn't pose much of a risk for Earth. However, even a single such comet colliding with Earth would be an extinction level event. The asteroid that caused the Chicxulub crater in the Yucatan is generally estimated to be around 10 km diameter and most comets are generally larger than that (Halley's Comet has a mean diameter of 11 km, and many have larger mean diameters). Comets are also much easier to spot generally than asteroids and so we have a better idea about their orbits and are more likely to have a lot of warning before a potential impact event on Earth. Asteroids are much harder to see and pose much more of a threat even though they are smaller objects (with the exception of a handful such as Ceres).

Re:Impact probability (1, Troll)

BitZtream (692029) | about 4 years ago | (#32973594)

You and I have different definitions of impact, but I suppose you're correct about SL9. I tend to think exploding in the atmosphere isn't an impact, but on a gaseous planet you aren't going to get much other than an airburst.

What I want to know is how we know what a comet that impacted a gas giant 200 years ago would look like in the atmosphere 200 years after the fact.

Maybe its just me, but it seems like an aweful lot of 'science' recently has been based on pure speculation. I mean, I know there are some great deductive minds out there, but until you can show me pictures of the comet that hit 200 years ago and the data showing how you tracked it to now so you know what it would look like after 200 years of atmospheric storms ...

You know what, I'm not going to even finish that thought, I call bullshit.

We can't model weather on Earth, and we have god knows how many sensors of every freaking type we've ever invented watching the planet and we can't predict what will happen tomorrow nor can we take a screenshot of the atmosphere and tell what the weather was like last year beyond what any 10 year old could guess on his/her own.

But we can detect what happened in a gas giant ... hundreds of years ago ... because we saw some light on a spectrometer?

And someone else believes this bullshit?

Re:Impact probability (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#32973640)

On earth we measure the intensity of UV light in Antarctica and conclude that the wrong sort of gas is being used in air conditioners in the tropics. Of course you have to follow a few steps from the observation to the conclusion, and uncertainty accumulates along the way. But thats science for you.

While we are at it, how can Toyota assemble an engine in a factory, sell it, and have it operate flawlessly for 20 years without even testing it once? I don't know either. Thats engineering for you.

Re:Impact probability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32986064)

While we are at it, how can Toyota assemble an engine in a factory, sell it, and have it operate flawlessly for 20 years without even testing it once? I don't know either.

DURP, maybe cause that's not what they do?

Re:Impact probability (3, Informative)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | about 4 years ago | (#32974246)

RTFA.

We're talking about the distribution of gases between layers of the atmosphere. This same technique could be used on earth to extrapolate when the industrial revolution started to have an impact on the upper atmosphere, and is based on a similar principle as analyzing ice cores to determine the composition of the atmosphere of the earth a thousand years ago, and as a result, make inferences regarding the general climate at the time. This isn't that far-fetched.

Re:Impact probability (1, Flamebait)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#32974306)

What I want to know is how we know what a comet that impacted a gas giant 200 years ago would look like in the atmosphere 200 years after the fact.

If you read the abstract or the article linked in the summary, you'd know.
 
The balance of your reply makes it clear why you didn't however.
 

And someone else believes this bullshit?

Yes, I believe you're full of bullshit. Willfully and knowingly so. And you revel in it.

Re:Impact probability (2, Insightful)

euphemistic (1850880) | about 4 years ago | (#32974642)

Science is educated guessing. People get the facts and attempt to make the most plausible theory which fits said facts. When more facts are discovered, the theory is altered to fit said facts.

All science should be therefore taken with a grain of salt, it's kind of the point. There is now a theory for a spot on Neptune, you aren't obligated to take it as some sort of absolute truth.

And then to apply the 'logic' of "well we suck at this aspect of science so how could we be right about this other completely separate aspect", come on. You don't have to accept this at face value, but at least use a better argument than this.

Just roll with the theories or feel free to put forward a new and better one - it's how science works.

Re:Impact probability (1)

Bemopolis (698691) | about 4 years ago | (#32976338)

Maybe its just me, but it seems like an aweful lot of 'science' recently has been based on pure speculation.

I wrote a long response to this. Then I deleted it, because it can be easily summarized...

It is just you. Just because you are a fucking "aweful" idiot doesn't mean that everybody is.

Re:Impact probability (2, Insightful)

radtea (464814) | about 4 years ago | (#32976712)

Maybe its just me, but it seems like an aweful lot of 'science' recently has been based on pure speculation.

It is, indeed, just you.

"Pure" speculation would be speculation without reference to facts or well established abstract principles.

In the present case, there is a distinct feature in the upper atmosphere of Neptune. That is a fact. We also have a whole bunch of facts about the details of the feature. Furthermore, we have a bunch of facts about the properties of comets and the odds of a comet of a given size hitting Neptune in the past few hundred years. And finally, we have a bunch of facts about how the atmosphere of a gas giant reacts to being hit by a comet of a given size, as we have observed such impacts. And really finally, we have an enormous wealth of fact regarding the properties and behaviours of fluid systems. It's called 'fluid mechanics' and is one of the most well-established areas of physics, although it is not without it's ongoing challenges due to non-linearity.

None of that is speculation. Zero. All facts, all the time. To be "pure speculation" something would have to not use any of those facts.

Now, given those facts, we can extrapolate from what we know and ask, "Given the facts that we have about comets and gas giants and fluid mechanics and this specific feature on Neptune, can we interpret this specific feature on Neptune about which we have many facts as the result of a relatively recent cometary impact?" The answer is "yes".

That is not speculation, pure or otherwise. That is science: rational inference from well-established facts and abstract principles.

If you don't approve of science done in this way you should stop using your computer, cell phone, etc, and never drive a car or fly in a plane, as all of those technologies depend on scientific discoveries that are equally "speculative".

Have you ever SEEN, for example, with your own eyes, the lift that a plane's wing provides? I don't think so. You just notice that planes have wings and that they don't fall down, and engage in some pure speculation" that wings provide lift. I call bullshit.

Re:Impact probability (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 years ago | (#32973740)

Note that this hypothesis is more plausible than it might seem at first glance since we've seen comets impact gas giants before. Most famously, in 1994 Shoemaker-Levy 9 was observed directly impacting on Jupiter. This also isn't the first time this sort of technique has been used to detect historic comet impacts. As TFA notes, this technique was previously used to show that a similar event likely occurred around 230 years ago on Saturn.

You know, what's actually kind of scary about what you've written is just how damned frequently the gas giants have been getting hit by comets.

We tend to think of the solar system as mostly static with much of the major disruptions mostly sorted out millions if no billions of years ago.

That many observations in just 200 years means there's still loads of rocky-bits out there waiting to bump into things.

Kinda makes you think the likelihood of getting splatted by a stray chunk is higher than one might think. That, or the gas giants are doing a bang-up job and deserve a raise. :-P

[ And, in a totally off-topic question ... what exactly would happen to a rock that falls into Jupiter? Crushed? Vaporized? Turned to diamond? Suddenly it occurs to me that I've no idea what would happen. ]

Re:Impact probability (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#32973806)

My guess is that a comet orbits the sun dozens or hundreds of times before it hits anything, and many of them never come as close to the sun as the Earth anyway. When it does hit something the probability of an impact with a comet may scale with the mass of the planet. Jupiter has 317.8 time the mass of earth and 10 times the radius. Another guess is that the probability scales with cross sectional area (for the actual impact) and mass (for the effective range of the gravitational field). Multiply the two (because you need both to work together) and you get 317 * 10^2 = 31 000. Lets say one tenth of all comets which cross the orbit of Jupiter cross the orbit of the earth. thats another order of magnitude. So there should be 300 000 times as many impacts on Jupiter as on earth.

Don't quote me if we get hit. Comet insurance is your responsibility.

Re:Impact probability (1)

Marcx77 (1193559) | about 4 years ago | (#32975242)

How do you figure the mass has anything to do with the probability of impact? The cross section, yes, that's obvious, but the mass? The trajectories of the colliding objects are overwhelmingly determined by the gravitational interaction between those objects and the sun, not between those objects.

Re:Impact probability (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#32975308)

Well for a start the gravitational field of Jupiter (for example) can change the path of a comet to collide with the planet. Additionally if the comet goes within the roche limit of a planet it can fall to bits. This causes momentum to be split between parts of the comet, resulting in much of the object entering the atmosphere. This was why we say shoemaker levy 9 on its last orbit. Looking further out the gravitational field of a planet can alter the orbits of comets so they have a resonant relationship with the planet. Resonance can lead to opportunities for collisions in the future.

Re:Impact probability (1)

Marcx77 (1193559) | about 4 years ago | (#32975568)

I understand all that, but I don't see how these arguments warrant a *linear* relationship between the relative masses and the probability of impact. This is why I used the word "overwhelmingly" in my post, which I admit isn't backed up by calculations.

Re:Impact probability (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#32975622)

I don't see how these arguments warrant a *linear* relationship between the relative masses and the probability of impact

Oh okay. My argument was really intended to be back of the envelope but I looked up Gravitational acceleration [wikipedia.org] (its been a while since I had to use it). Acceleration due to gravity is proportional to mass so if you pass Earth at 100000km and Jupiter at the same distance you will get 317 times the acceleration from Jupiter at that distance. So if you think about a target 100000 km in radius the gravity alone should make it 317 times more likely you will hit the planet, if the planet is Jupiter.

Re:Impact probability (1)

Marcx77 (1193559) | about 4 years ago | (#32978864)

See, and that's where I think you're wrong. The chance an object is going to hit a target isn't determined by its acceleration like you describe it is. You could say that its trajectory will be more affected by Jupiter than by Earth, which will mean that it'll probably pass by Jupiter closer (only a little, mind you) than by Earth, and will move away from Jupiter at a greater angle with the original trajectory than from Earth, all other circumstances being equal. But an object would have to be moving very slowly, or have a trajectory *very* close to it for the gravitational force to actually make it collide with the planet at all. Again, without doing the calculations (which I'd be hard-pressd to do correctly, by the way, although I do have a BSc in physics) I'd say the cross section is the major factor here, which would make an impact on Earth much more likely than the 1:300,000 you project.

Re:Impact probability (1)

Marcx77 (1193559) | about 4 years ago | (#32978896)

RE:myself: .. than the 1:300,000 times the probability of a Jupiter impact, of course.

Re:Impact probability (1)

clong83 (1468431) | about 4 years ago | (#32974190)

According to Carl Sagan in Cosmos, some astronomers think that Jupiter may have a small solid core at it's center made up of precisely all the asteroids and bits of rock from comets it's eaten up over the last few eons. But I don't think there's really any consensus on the issue.

I am not an astronomer, but I did watch Cosmos the other night...

Re:Impact probability (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 years ago | (#32976696)

I am not an astronomer, but I did watch Cosmos the other night...

Which is more than I knew.

Thanks for the info.

Re:Impact probability (1)

Ana10g (966013) | about 4 years ago | (#32977282)

I believe the current consensus is that Jupiter and Saturn (and I'm not sure about the other Gas Giants) has a compressed "liquid metal Hydrogen" core, (where Hydrogen at sufficient pressure acts as a metal): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metallic_hydrogen#Astrophysics [wikipedia.org] . IANA Physicist, so take that wiki article at face value. I'm still with you on not knowing what would happen, but I suspect that pressures significant to turn Hydrogen into a metal, I'd lean towards something akin to your diamond explanation, depending on the composition of the impacting body.

Re:Impact probability (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 years ago | (#32980150)

Metallic Hydrogen? Man, from the article you linked, I see the words "alkali metal" and "superconductor, up to room temperature".

Man, is science ever cool. :-P

Cheers

Re:Impact probability (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#32974160)

Note that this hypothesis is more plausible than it might seem at first glance since we've seen comets impact gas giants before. Most famously, in 1994 Shoemaker-Levy 9 was observed directly impacting on Jupiter http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comet_Shoemaker-Levy_9 [wikipedia.org] . This also isn't the first time this sort of technique has been used to detect historic comet impacts. As TFA notes, this technique was previously used to show that a similar event likely occurred around 230 years ago on Saturn.

So why do you think this technique shows evidence of a comet impact at a particular date? At best, it shows evidence of comet impact. Going from that to make a particular claim about the number of large impacts that could generate the observed atmospheric details, seems hasty. We may be seeing the results of many impacts over thousands of years rather than single large impacts a couple centuries ago.

Re:Impact probability (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#32974618)

We may be seeing the results of many impacts over thousands of years rather than single large impacts a couple centuries ago.

If your hypothesis was true - they wouldn't be a sharp gradient of CO concentrations between atmospheric layers. However, such a gradient was observed, showing the impacts occurred in a relatively short time frame a relatively short time ago.

Re:Impact probability (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#32981850)

If your hypothesis was true - they wouldn't be a sharp gradient of CO concentrations between atmospheric layers. However, such a gradient was observed, showing the impacts occurred in a relatively short time frame a relatively short time ago.

Why is that assertion true (that a sharp gradient implies what they claim it implies)? From what I understand, there appears to be observations of perhaps two or three impacts that they're basing this assertion on, Shoemaker-Levy and single addition impacts on Jupiter and Saturn since. That seems very sparse evidence on which to base such claims.

Re:Impact probability (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#32982278)

Why is that assertion true (that a sharp gradient implies what they claim it implies)?

Why shouldn't it be true? (With the caveat that science doesn't claim to produce truth - only to produce explanations that match observations.) The theory matches all available evidence, so it'll do until someone comes up with a better explanation.
 

From what I understand, there appears to be observations of perhaps two or three impacts that they're basing this assertion on, Shoemaker-Levy and single addition impacts on Jupiter and Saturn since. That seems very sparse evidence on which to base such claims.

That's the way science works - they examine the available facts and produce a theory that explains it. Then other people seek to find if the theory holds up over time, as more facts are discovered.

Re:Impact probability (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#32982892)

Why shouldn't it be true? (With the caveat that science doesn't claim to produce truth - only to produce explanations that match observations.) The theory matches all available evidence, so it'll do until someone comes up with a better explanation.

I didn't come up with a "better" explanation, but I did come up with a different one that apparently is just as compatible with the evidence.

That's the way science works - they examine the available facts and produce a theory that explains it. Then other people seek to find if the theory holds up over time, as more facts are discovered.

Save the lecture. My point was that there was other hypotheses that could explain the existing evidence. Why should we get into a discussion of the scientific method when it isn't an issue? Isn't that a bit unscientific to introduce extraneous information?

Re:Impact probability (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 4 years ago | (#32983256)

I didn't come up with a "better" explanation, but I did come up with a different one that apparently is just as compatible with the evidence.

If it's the one I replied to, it's not compatible with the evidence.
 

Save the lecture. My point was that there was other hypotheses that could explain the existing evidence. Why should we get into a discussion of the scientific method when it isn't an issue? Isn't that a bit unscientific to introduce extraneous information?

You asked a question, and I answered it. I introduced a discussion of the scientific method because your egregious lack of understanding of it is why we're having this discussion in the first place.

Re:Impact probability (1)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#32983804)

If it's the one I replied to, it's not compatible with the evidence.

This is what I'm talking about. There isn't enough evidence for the claim you make. Recall that you claimed a sharp gradient in carbon monoxide implies a single impact sequence some point about two centuries ago. That may well be true and I do not disagree that the hypothesis is compatible with the evidence. But again, that differential can also be explained through a combination of a steady rain of comets combined with some enhanced mechanism for destroying/sequestering carbon monoxide in the lower layer of atmosphere. Given that comet impacts seem rather common and that we seem rather ignorant on the dynamics and atmospheric chemistry of gas giants, I don't see a big stretch in forwarding this hypothesis. This is not "egregious lack of understanding", but simply pointing out an alternate hypothesis.

Re:Impact probability (1)

johno.ie (102073) | about 4 years ago | (#32974780)

Ceres isn't an asteroid.

Re:Impact probability (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 4 years ago | (#32974960)

And Pluto isn't a planet. Not any more. Sniff!

Re:Impact probability (1)

osu-neko (2604) | about 4 years ago | (#32975216)

Ceres isn't an asteroid.

Depends on who you ask. It arguably is. And before someone leaps forward with links about Ceres being classified as a "dwarf planet", let me note that saying what Ceres is doesn't prove what it isn't, as things can answer to more than one description (you don't contradict someone claiming that a man is a father by noting that he's a brother -- he can be both). "Planet" has now received a much less ambiguous definition than it once had, and "dwarf planet" has be coined, but, as far as I know, "asteroid" has not be disambiguated in any way that would make Ceres inarguably no longer one. Indeed the IAU Minor Planet Center specifically notes [harvard.edu] that a number of objects on the "minor planet" (the technical term for an asteroid) list have dual designations (e.g. also being numbered and listed in cometary catalogues), and goes on to note that they inclusion of an object on the new dwarf planet list does not preclude its inclusion on minor planet or other lists.

Re:Impact probability (1)

johno.ie (102073) | about 4 years ago | (#32989882)

Interesting, I didn't know that.

Re:Impact probability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32987364)

the most plausible explanation why we didn't get the motherload of all impacts yet might be the fact that we're still here. In the early stages the universe was a bit in a shitstorm so, if we think Darwin for a bit, that would have weeded out the weak 'systems', leaving us with one that proved its worth to survive in the cosmic jungle. But even so, this doesn't rule out the possibility that something WILL happen.

Whats in it for us? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#32973340)

We are rapidly learning more about the cometary impact rate on Jupiter, and now Neptune. It should be possible to extrapolate from this to calculate the impact rate on Earth.

Clearly, a dangerous object spends some time orbiting across the orbits of the planets before it hits something, and the probability of an impact on Jupiter is much greater than an impact on Earth.

We seem to be getting a handle on the risk from asteroids, but a comet can come our way without warning.

Re:Whats in it for us? (4, Informative)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 4 years ago | (#32973402)

We are rapidly learning more about the cometary impact rate on Jupiter, and now Neptune. It should be possible to extrapolate from this to calculate the impact rate on Earth.

Better extrapolation method: look at historic impacts on Earth. See Chapman's 1994 paper in Nature "Impacts on the Earth by asteroids and comets: assessing the hazard" v. 367, Issue 6458, pg. 33-40. This paper gives a good summary of the literature at the time (my impression is that this hasn't changed much since then but this is far from my area of expertise).

We seem to be getting a handle on the risk from asteroids, but a comet can come our way without warning.

Not exactly. Comets that are anywhere near the inner system become visible very quickly due to their outgassing. In contrast asteroids are much harder to spot. On the other hand, asteroids stay where they are supposed to and don't have wildly elliptic orbits so they are much easier to track in the long run and tag. So there's a mix here, but overall asteroids are more likely to strike without warning. Comets will likely give us at least a few days to have a giant orgy.

Re:Whats in it for us? (1)

aliquis (678370) | about 4 years ago | (#32973482)

Comets will likely give us at least a few days to have a giant orgy.

Big deal, I won't be invited that time either :(

Oh well, atleast that time I won't have to wish for everyone else to die... They will anyway! >:]

Re:Whats in it for us? (3, Informative)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#32973606)

So there's a mix here, but overall asteroids are more likely to strike without warning.

...until we catalog them. We can do that from low earth orbit with infrared telescopes. The wise mission [berkeley.edu] has massively increased the rate of discovery, which is why I think the uncertainty about impacts will come from comets in the future.

Re:Whats in it for us? (1)

GIL_Dude (850471) | about 4 years ago | (#32973700)

I seem to recall reading that the out-gassing is assumed to fade over time (after several close passes to the sun) after which the bright tail and nimbus dissipate leaving a fairly low albedo object that, while still a comet, is hard to find. If that's really true, then "burned out comets" - still in their easily perturbed, long elliptical orbits would present a lot of danger.

Re:Whats in it for us? (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | about 4 years ago | (#32973722)

Another issue with the highly eccentric orbits is that a comet can do a close pass past the sun, and hit us almost directly from the direction of the sun. A large object on that trajectory could easily be missed entirely.

Re:Whats in it for us? (1)

IRoll11!s (1609859) | about 4 years ago | (#32975392)

That's why you look for them at night!

so... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32973342)

ok?
what new does this tell us?
nothing
move along.

But... (1)

MadGeek007 (1332293) | about 4 years ago | (#32973466)

Did they find water? After all, we're talking about Neptune.

No... (1)

billstewart (78916) | about 4 years ago | (#32973648)

... and it also wiped out any dinosaurs that were there...

Cometary Impact on Neptune about 230 years ago (1)

TropicalCoder (898500) | about 4 years ago | (#32973734)

Perhaps this is why we have never seen any Neptunians?

Re:Cometary Impact on Neptune about 230 years ago (1)

sconeu (64226) | about 4 years ago | (#32973802)

We have. Elzar [wikipedia.org] is Neptunian.

Re:Cometary Impact on Neptune about 230 years ago (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 4 years ago | (#32978696)

Perhaps this is why we have never seen any Neptunians?

Neptune is outside the goldilocks zone [slashdot.org] [fiction]

If that is 200 earth years (4, Interesting)

damn_registrars (1103043) | about 4 years ago | (#32973898)

If that was 200 earth years ago that the comet hit, then Neptune has made less than 1.5 orbits around the sun since then [wikipedia.org] .

Voyager 2? (3, Informative)

dpille (547949) | about 4 years ago | (#32974196)

When the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 hit Jupiter sixteen years ago, scientists all over the world were prepared: instruments on board the space probes Voyager 2, Galileo and Ulysses documented every detail of this rare incident.

That's funny, because my back-of-the-napkin estimate is that at the time, Voyager 2 was 3 billion miles further away from Jupiter than the Earth is. Wonder what they thought they were gonna see with 15-year-old technology that they weren't going to see with, say, the Hubble telescope, new ground-based instruments, or hell, even the naked eye that was 3 billion miles closer to the event.

Re:Voyager 2? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32974242)

The back side of the planet?

Re:Voyager 2? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32974340)

Huh? With what reflected light?

Re:Voyager 2? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32974954)

Impacts make their own light.

Re:Voyager 2? (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 4 years ago | (#32980952)

Maybe they had lights attached to the probe, like you had with old movie cameras.

Re:Voyager 2? (1)

Vulch (221502) | about 4 years ago | (#32974846)

The Shoemaker-Levy impacts were happening on the side of Jupiter not visible from Earth. Voyager, Galileo and Ulysses all had a different view of the planet, so the view from 3 billion miles away is better than "none at all".

Re:Voyager 2? (4, Informative)

Sockatume (732728) | about 4 years ago | (#32975316)

PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
JET PROPULSION LABORATORY
CALIFORNIA INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY
NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION
PASADENA, CALIF. 91109. TELEPHONE (818) 354-5011

                                              VOYAGER MISSION STATUS
                                                      August 1, 1994

          Both the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft are healthy and they are
continuing to take data on fields and particles in interplanetary
space.

          The Voyager 2 spacecraft used two of its scientific
instruments to look at the impacts of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9
fragments as they impacted Jupiter July 16-22. Both the
ultraviolet spectrometer and the planetary radio astronomy
experiments were used in the observations. Neither instrument
detected any UV emission or radio signals during the impacts.
The spacecraft began its observations of Jupiter on July 8 and
will continue to observe the planet until August 17. At the
time of the comet impacts, Voyager 2 was 6.1 billion kilometers
(3.7 billion miles) from Jupiter.

          Voyager 1 is currently 8.4 billion kilometers (5.2 billion
miles) from Earth. Voyager 2 is 6.4 billion kilometers (4
billion miles) from Earth.

My question would be, why not try? It's not like it took time away from mission-critical operations.

christian louboutin shoes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#32977280)

That's funny, because my back-of-the-napkin estimate is that at the time, Voyager 2 was 3 billion miles further away from Jupiter than the Earth is.

200 year (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | about 4 years ago | (#32980986)

Evidence For 200-Year-Old Comet Impact On Neptune

I thought most comets were much older than 200 years. How does a comet form, and crash, in a mere 200 years?

Damn you Negaverse! You too Serenity! (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | about 4 years ago | (#32985570)

If the moon kingdom had a damned militia this wouldn't have happened....

Instead they put all their funding for palaces built in the inhospitable airless vacuum that is the surface of the moon. Instead of building some sorta real defense force...

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