Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Kuiper Belt Collision Found; Possible Comet Source

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the we-really-must-visit-one-day dept.

Space 68

siglercm writes "Astronomers have detected the remnants of an ancient collision in the Kuiper Belt, the region of bodies found outside of our solar system. The massive impact between a nearly Pluto-sized body and one half as large created a 'collisional family' of objects; this is the first such family identified in the Kuiper Belt. The largest body produced may cross Neptune's orbit in the distant future, but it's possible that smaller objects created by the smash-up have already fallen into the inner solar system as comets."

cancel ×

68 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Kuiper Crash (4, Insightful)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367507)

How does the "dirty snowball" composition of comets fit into this theory?
Wouldn't the result resemble asteroids rather than comets?

Re:Kuiper Crash (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367563)

That was the first thing that came to mind for me as well. The only thing I can think of would be that for some reason this planetoid was composed of all that was left on the rim of the solar system.

Re:Kuiper Crash (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18367969)

Bah! Everybody knows that Comets came from Mercuy [wikipedia.org]

Re:Kuiper Crash (2, Funny)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368177)

The snowballs come from the kuiper belt, they get dirty when they brush up against Uranus.

hee hee. Imagine how boring astronomy would be if they didn't name Uranus what they did?

Re:Kuiper Crash (2, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368269)

"Sorry, Fry, But scientists renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke."

What's it called now?"

"Urectum."

Re:Kuiper Crash (4, Insightful)

siglercm (6059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368451)

I was really dense in reading your post at first. I think I understand your question now, but please let me know if I've got it wrong.

This is a possible source of some (few) comets (if I understand correctly). I don't believe there's any assertion that all comets come from this collision. The main object is mostly rocky, but they say the trailing small ones are icy. It's possible that some of these smaller bodies may have been perturbed from their orbits and fallen into the inner solar system as comets.

Re:Kuiper Crash (1)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#18375937)

That makes sense. Could be the object had an icy coating, was broken up, and the outer bits, if perturbed into the right orbit, became cometary objects.

Re:Kuiper Crash (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18370667)

I've got your "dirty snowball" right here, big boy. Open wide.

Re:Kuiper Crash (1)

Lord Ender (156273) | more than 7 years ago | (#18374659)

A "dirty snowball" sounds like something that would cost extra in a brothel.

Re:Kuiper Crash (1)

IHateEverybody (75727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18382913)

All Kuiper Belt objects resemble icy asteroids. But as the article somewhat obliquely points out, when KBOs cross the obit of Neptune and move into the inner solar system they, start to heat up and grow icy tails. In other words, they turn into comets.

So much for.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18367517)

the big sky theory...

Is it just me? (1)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367521)

Sure, I know that this is about evidence that this is what happens, but since they taught us about gravity in grade school, this as a source of meteorites etc. just makes common sense. Am I alone on this one?

Re:Is it just me? (1)

torxic (939488) | more than 7 years ago | (#18371691)

Yes, but did you know what collision caused this comets? Mars and Earth obviously didn't collide to form comets.

But now, after reading TFA, we know it's the Kuiper's belt.

How many planets could there be? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367531)

How far from the Sun could we expect to keep finding planets? Has anyone come up with an 'Outer Limit' for holding an object in orbit?

Re:How many planets could there be? (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367707)

How far from the Sun could we expect to keep finding planets? Has anyone come up with an 'Outer Limit' for holding an object in orbit?

If its too far out, then it is more likely to be disturbed by other stars besides the sun (current or past). In theory the orbital boundary of the sun is nearly infinite. In practice, our neighborhood stars muck up any outer orbits. For a non-geek analogy, it is sort of like having kids and living next store to Michael Jackson.
           

Hill sphere comes close to what you want (4, Informative)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367797)

If you consider the nearest stars and/or the galaxy as a whole, you could calculate the Hill sphere [wikipedia.org] for the Sun. I do believe that, in purely technical terms, it's large.

What about Pluto? (5, Interesting)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367583)

What about Pluto, Charon, Hydra, and Nix? Couldn't they be such a family?

Re:What about Pluto? (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 7 years ago | (#18373027)

What about Pluto, Charon, Hydra, and Nix? Couldn't they be such a family?

Yes, they probably are the kids of some aging rock star

outside? (2, Interesting)

Feyr (449684) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367595)

outside of our solar system? neptune belongs to this solar system. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuiper_belt [wikipedia.org]

Re:outside? (1)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367621)

My God. It's just like our own.

Re:outside? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367859)

outside of our solar system? neptune belongs to this solar system

Neptune stated, "If brother Pluto cannot be a planet, then I quit this [bleep] family!"
         

Re:outside? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18368921)

"outside of" is a double preposition. Just use "outside" by itself. Same goes for the OP.

Re:outside? (1)

Feyr (449684) | more than 7 years ago | (#18375239)

i'll try to remember that one, thanks

Re:outside? (1)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18372535)

The last time we attempted a rescue this far out it never came back and now she wont let us leave :|

So they found Kzanol's ship? (2, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367599)

I guess Larry Niven had it right.

Re:So they found Kzanol's ship? (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367649)

If any sci-fi writer does get it right it will doubtlessly be Niven. The man is a God.

Re:So they found Kzanol's ship? (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368035)

The man [Niven] is a God.
Certainly he has the ego for it. Maybe more.

That would be really cool if we were to see... (1)

physicsboy500 (645835) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367611)

A "comet shower" in our lifetime as long as none penetrate the atmosphere. Could you imagine what it would look like to see 15 or 16 comets at once in the night sky??!?

Re:That would be really cool if we were to see... (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367883)

A "comet shower" in our lifetime as long as none penetrate the atmosphere. Could you imagine what it would look like to see 15 or 16 comets at once in the night sky??!?

Hell, we'd run out of cults [wikipedia.org] real fast.
     

Re:That would be really cool if we were to see... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18368715)

Crap, better buy Koolaid stock quick

Quick... (1)

djones101 (1021277) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367693)

Someone call the best deep core driller! *cue Bruce Willis*

Re:Quick... (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368179)

*cue Bruce Willis*
"Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker."

Re:Quick... (1)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | more than 7 years ago | (#18372543)

It was "Yippee-ki-yay, Kemo Sabe" before 21.00 o'clock :)

Likely source? (1)

Bonker (243350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367739)

I think we all know the source of these fragments:

"Deado Scream"

Re:Likely source? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367827)

I think we all know the source of these fragments: "Deado Scream"

You're supposed to say "Uranus". What's with this new batch of 'dotters?
       

Re:Likely source? (0, Flamebait)

Bonker (243350) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367937)

Pathetic fanboy trumps grade-school potty humour any day of the week.

Re:Likely source? (1)

Kutsal (514445) | more than 7 years ago | (#18370261)

Naah...

They're the remnants of an ancient Imperial Outpost destroyed by an Achuultani attack... ;)

How Many? (1)

anzha (138288) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367745)

Anyone have a link to the total number of Kuipier Belt objects they've found? It hasn't past 100 yet has it?

Try 800 (4, Informative)

benhocking (724439) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367849)

At least according to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] ! (I had no idea we were up that high, either.)

Re:Try 800 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18371119)

Check Wikipedia again. Looks like another 300 more were found in the last several hours... :)

shaped like a M&M (3, Informative)

daniel23 (605413) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367867)

I spent more than an hour reading about this and other finds on the homepage of one of the team who found that,
M.E.Brown [caltech.edu]

The Link has a animated model of the thing and a schematic of its structure that looks like candy..

Re:shaped like a M&M (1)

siglercm (6059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368059)

Thanks for that excellent link! Wish I had some mod points :-( I happened to catch this story earlier today while I was surfing around....

Re:shaped like a M&M (2, Funny)

MadUndergrad (950779) | more than 7 years ago | (#18369135)

It appears to have a thin crunchy shell of rock on the outside with a core composed primarily of rich dark matter.

Re:shaped like a M&M (1)

Sinical (14215) | more than 7 years ago | (#18383199)

Wow!


It spins end over end every 4 hours like a football that has been kicked...

...The answer is that it is as big as Pluto -- along its longest dimension.

To me that's just staggering. According to Google, Pluto's diameter is 2274km, so the circumference of a circle described by this thing spinning would be ~7144km. So to cover this in 4 hours, the radial velocity is 1786km/hour (1110mph)! Yeah, I can see why it's streched out.

Wow!

damn misreadings (1)

GroeFaZ (850443) | more than 7 years ago | (#18367987)

That's what you get for watching good old Babylon 5 all week: instead of reading "ancient colisions", reading "ancient civilizations". That would indeed be stuff that matters.

Re:damn misreadings (1)

MrCopilot (871878) | more than 7 years ago | (#18370061)

reading "ancient colisions", reading "ancient civilizations". That would indeed be stuff that matters.

Ok, OffTopic but here ya go.

http://www.learner.org/resources/series58.html [learner.org] Excellent Series on Civilization mostly Western, but a good primer.

reminiscient of Velikovsky (2, Insightful)

mrtexe (1032978) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368121)

This reminds me of the work of Boris Velikovsky. Of course, citing him would be like a Christian seminarian citing the satanic bible.

Re:reminiscient of Velikovsky (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18372275)

It'd be more like citing a drunk in court. "Just the facts."

Re:reminiscient of Velikovsky (1)

painQuin (626852) | more than 7 years ago | (#18373337)

I'd like to see someone pull that off legitimately. Something like "because of what it says here [satanic bible], we can interpret Satan's motivations here [regular bible] as such, etc etc"

that'd be cool.

Re:reminiscient of Velikovsky (1)

IHateEverybody (75727) | more than 7 years ago | (#18382999)

IIRC, Velikovsky believed that Jupiter spat out comets. One of these comets was responsible for a number of the miracles in the Old Testament. And then it became the planet Venus when it finally cooled down and its orbit stabilized.

This is pretty different. Here, you have one Pluto-sized object which was hit by a smaller object and broke apart. Some of the debris from that collision was thrown into the inner solar system forming comets and the rest coalesced into a into a large, fast spinning object and miscellaneous smaller objects including its two moons and a few smaller Kuiper Belt objects.

This isn't a new theory by the way. Most scientists now believe that the Earth and Moon along with Pluto, Charon, and its other satellites where also the result of a similar impact.

It looks like (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368249)

A picture taken through a piece of cardboard with three holes in it. The sun is in the lower left.

Did I miss the memo? (1)

Control Group (105494) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368523)

Since when is the Kuiper Belt "outside" our solar system? I was under the (erroneous?) impression that the solar system is defined by the sun, such that anything that orbits the sun (or that orbits a body orbiting the sun) is part of the solar system. The Kuiper Belt certainly qualifies by that criterion, doesn't it?

Did the definition change recently? Have I been wrong about the definition the whole time?

Re:Did I miss the memo? (1)

siglercm (6059) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368673)

I believe you're right. I probably should've said, more accurately, "region of bodies found outside of the orbit of Neptune" without talking about inside or outside the solar system :-)

Re:Did I miss the memo? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 7 years ago | (#18368771)

You're right and they're wrong. That said...

I think the way they're defining "the solar system" is basically the area where planets orbit--say, out to Neptune. After that, you are "outside" the solar system, even though all these objects in the kuiper belt orbit the sun.

It's sort of like the atmosphere of the Earth. After a couple of hundred miles, you're in "space" even though there's still bits of Earth's atmosphere up that high.

Re:Did I miss the memo? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 7 years ago | (#18369311)

we already have an idea where the suns gravitation force is equal to the forces of deep space.
Thats the line....sphere really.

fuckEr (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18368867)

Be forgotten 1n a

Pltuo eh (1)

SohCahToa (1038480) | more than 7 years ago | (#18369387)

>The massive impact between a nearly Pluto-sized body

*gasp* they are talking about a formally planet sized impact, that must be pretty formally big.

Pluto sized comet! (1)

Evil Pete (73279) | more than 7 years ago | (#18372189)

I particularly liked the comment near the bottom of the page that since this body (lengthwise the diameter of Pluto) is in an unstable zone then in about a billion years it will become a comet ploughing into the inner system ... gasp! It and its moons will be some sight ... make even Bruce Willis crap in his pants.

ummm! (1)

neonmagic (532879) | more than 7 years ago | (#18370983)

It just goes to show that you shouldn't piss off Messrs Vader & Tarkin - the Kuiper belt is really the remains of Alderaan!!!

Dave

it's 'Grain of salt time' (1)

solitas (916005) | more than 7 years ago | (#18370995)

The article is long on 'could', "believed to be", "is thought to have", and "probably"; but is short on their method(s) of determining all this, as well as their proof(s).

Did they back-project a lot of orbital data and find a reasonably common intersection point/time? Ouija board? Magic 8-ball (related comic: http://wapsisquare.com/comics/20020125.jpg [wapsisquare.com] )? Wikipedia?

And the "10 billion nuclear bombs" is just asinine. I'm thinking Caltech told the group "hey, you guys - time to publish something; and don't spell us "c-a-l-t-e-c-k" again.

To be fair, though: it might just be that space.com is pitching their writing to 'the least common denominator'.

Re:it's 'Grain of salt time' (1)

iamlucky13 (795185) | more than 7 years ago | (#18372297)

Well, nuclear bombs is a standard journalism unit. The best part is, it is interchangeable for power and energy without dividing by time! And space.com does tend to mix a little bit of technical with a little bit of sensational.

The quote that got me though, was this:

One day, EL2003 EL61 will cross the orbit of Neptune and become a comet itself. "That's going to be in about a billion years," Brown said. "It's a ways to wait."

Umm...what? I'm missing something here. An extremely long period for a comet is around 5-10,000 years. Beyond that, it's nearly impossible to even tell if it's gravitationally bound to our solar system or has an escape trajectory because the orbit would have to swing so far out from the sun. Certainly over a billion year period you could expect the state of net gravity along it's path from the sun and other stars to perturb so you can't even tell if it is in the solar system or has been stripped by another star.

The other possibility is that it's in a roughly circular orbit, in which case, it wouldn't ever wander into the inner solar system, unless he's counting on there being another major collision sometime in the next billion years. This after he's just theorized that the collision happened billions of years ago, when the solar system was a much more crowded place.

Oh, I should mention, the method of linking the large object to the smaller objects believed to be collision debris is based on similarities in orbit (they're close together) and reflected spectra (they're made of the same stuff). Also, an object that small should not have attained that great of a rotational speed simply through accretion, so an impact is definitely likely.

Re:it's 'Grain of salt time' (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18375533)

Pluto's orbit comes closer to the sun than Neptune at times, but its orbit never actually crosses Neptune's because of its inclination. Therefore, it will never get close enough to Neptune to have its orbit perturbed enough to send it into the inner solar system or be captured. That wasn't the case for Triton. Perhaps the guy who found this object (Brown) knows enough about its orbit(or he couldn't have gotten recognition for its discovery) to know that it does come close enough to Neptune's orbital path to say that it's not close enough to Neptune now each time they do their rounds, but it will be in about 1 billion years worth of orbits.

Captcha: unending

Buuuugs!! (1)

nephridium (928664) | more than 7 years ago | (#18372349)

Klendathu, source of the bug meteor attacks orbits a twin star system whose brutal gravitational forces produce an unlimited supply of bug meteorites in the form of this asteroid belt. To ensure the safety of our solar system Klendathu must be eliminated. Do you want to learn more? [imdb.com]

Join the Mobile Infantry and save the world! Service guarantees citizenship!

Oblig... (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 7 years ago | (#18373191)

That's no giant remnant of a cosmic collision...

Outside our solar system? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#18373661)

So we no longer have an Oort Cloud?

Kuiper belt? (1)

PaulOShea (79691) | more than 7 years ago | (#18382393)

Surely you mean the Edgeworth-Kuiper belt, named after Kenneth Essex Edgeworth and Gerard Peter Kuiper.

Given that Edgeworth made one of the earliest suggestions that a reservoir of comments could exist beyond the planets, his contribution too should be honoured by using the belt's full name.

Long live the GNU^H^H^HEdgworth-Kuiper Belt!

Re:Kuiper belt? (1)

PaulOShea (79691) | more than 7 years ago | (#18382409)

Dang! 'Comets' not 'Comments'!
Check for New Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?