Saturday, 3 August 2013

Comet Graveyard Found in Asteroid Belt



These illustrations show the asteroid belt in the present day and in the early Solar System, located between the Sun (at centre) and four terrestrial planets (near the Sun) and Jupiter (at bottom left). The top image shows the conventional model for the asteroid belt; largely composed of rocky material. The middle image shows the proposed model, with a small number of active comets and a dormant cometary population. The lower diagram shows how the asteroid belt might have looked in the early Solar System, with vigorous cometary activity. (Credit: Ignacio Ferrin / University of Anitoquia)

A team of astronomers from the University of Anitoquia, Medellin, Colombia, have discovered a graveyard of comets. The researchers, led by Anitoquia astronomer Prof. Ignacio Ferrin, describe how some of these objects, inactive for millions of years, have returned to life leading them to name the group the 'Lazarus comets'.

The new work looked at a third and distinct region of the Solar System, the main belt of asteroids between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. This volume of space contains more than 1 million objects ranging in size from 1 m to 800 km. The traditional explanation for asteroids is that they are the building blocks of a planet that never formed, as the movement of the pieces was disrupted by the strong gravitational field of Jupiter.

In the last decade 12 active comets have been discovered in the asteroid main belt region. This was something of a surprise and the Medellin team set out to investigate their origin. The team, made up of Prof. Ferrin and his colleagues Profs. Jorge Zuluaga and Pablo Cuartas, now think they have an explanation.

"We found a graveyard of comets," exclaims Professor Ferrín. He adds: "Imagine all these asteroids going around the Sun for aeons, with no hint of activity. We have found that some of these are not dead rocks after all, but are dormant comets that may yet come back to life if the energy that they receive from the Sun increases by a few per cent."

More - Link >>> http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130802080248.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fspace_time+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Space+%26+Time+News%29

Sources: Royal Astronomical Society (RAS), ScienceDaily.com .

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