Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Many famous comets originally formed in other solar systems

Date:
June 11, 2010
Source:
Southwest Research Institute
Summary:
Many of the most well known comets, including Halley, Hale-Bopp and, most recently, McNaught, may have been born in orbit around other stars, according to a new theory by an international team of astronomers.

Comet Hale-Bopp photographed on April 9, 1997.
Credit: iStockphoto/Scott Orr

Many of the most well known comets, including Halley, Hale-Bopp and, most recently, McNaught, may have been born in orbit around other stars, according to a new theory by an international team of astronomers led by a scientist from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colo.

Related Articles


Dr. Hal Levison (SwRI), Dr. Martin Duncan (Queen's University, Kingston, Canada), Dr. Ramon Brasser (Observatoire de la Cτte d'Azur, France) and Dr. David Kaufmann (SwRI) used computer simulations to show that the Sun may have captured small icy bodies from its sibling stars while it was in its birth star cluster, thereby creating a reservoir for observed comets.

While the Sun currently has no companion stars, it is believed to have formed in a cluster containing hundreds of closely packed stars that were embedded in a dense cloud of gas. During this time, each star formed a large number of small icy bodies (comets) in a disk from which planets formed. Most of these comets were gravitationally slung out of these prenatal planetary systems by the newly forming giant planets, becoming tiny, free-floating members of the cluster.

The Sun's cluster came to a violent end, however, when its gas was blown out by the hottest young stars. These new models show that the Sun then gravitationally captured a large cloud of comets as the cluster dispersed.

"When it was young, the Sun shared a lot of spit with its siblings, and we can see that stuff today," says lead author Levison.

"The process of capture is surprisingly efficient and leads to the exciting possibility that the cloud contains a potpourri that samples material from a large number of stellar siblings of the Sun," says co-author Duncan.

Evidence for the team's scenario comes from the roughly spherical cloud of comets, known as the Oort cloud, that surrounds the Sun, extending halfway to the nearest star. It has been commonly assumed this cloud formed from the Sun's proto-planetary disk. However, because detailed models show that comets from the solar system produce a much more anemic cloud than observed, another source is required.

Levison says, "If we assume that the Sun's observed proto-planetary disk can be used to estimate the indigenous population of the Oort cloud, we can conclude that more than 90 percent of the observed Oort cloud comets have an extra-solar origin."

"The formation of the Oort cloud has been a mystery for over 60 years and our work likely solves this long-standing problem," says Brasser.

The article by Levison, Duncan, Brasser and Kaufmann, was published in the June 10 issue of Science Express.

Funding for this research was provided by NASA's Astrobiology Institute, Outer Planets Research and Origins of Solar Systems programs, the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and Germany's Helmholtz Alliance.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Southwest Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Harold F. Levison, Martin J. Duncan, Ramon Brasser, and David E. Kaufmann. Capture of the Sun's Oort Cloud from Stars in its Birth Cluster. Science, 2010; DOI: 10.1126/science.1187535

Cite This Page:

Southwest Research Institute. "Many famous comets originally formed in other solar systems." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610141038.htm>.
Southwest Research Institute. (2010, June 11). Many famous comets originally formed in other solar systems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610141038.htm
Southwest Research Institute. "Many famous comets originally formed in other solar systems." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100610141038.htm (accessed November 23, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Space & Time News

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Google Announces Improvements To Balloon-Borne Wi-Fi Project

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) — In a blog post, Google said its balloons have traveled 3 million kilometers since the start of Project Loon. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory

Crowdfunded Moon Mission Offers To Store Your Digital Memory

Newsy (Nov. 19, 2014) — Lunar Mission One is offering to send your digital memory (or even your DNA) to the moon to be stored for a billion years. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Accidents Ignite Debate on US Commercial Space Travel

Accidents Ignite Debate on US Commercial Space Travel

AFP (Nov. 19, 2014) — Serious accidents with two US commercial spacecraft within a week of each-other in October have re-ignited the debate over the place of private corporations in the exploration of space. Duration: 02:08 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lunar Mission One Could Send Your Hair to The Moon

Lunar Mission One Could Send Your Hair to The Moon

Buzz60 (Nov. 19, 2014) — A British-led venture called Lunar Mission One plans to send a module to the moon with keepsakes from Earth. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) tells you how to get your photos and DNA onboard. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins