Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

When minor planets Ceres and Vesta rock Earth into chaos

Date:
July 18, 2011
Source:
Astronomy & Astrophysics
Summary:
A new study examines the orbital evolution of minor planets Ceres and Vesta, a few days before the flyby of Vesta by the Dawn spacecraft. A team of astronomers found that close encounters among these bodies lead to strong chaotic behavior of their orbits, as well as of Earth's eccentricity. This means, in particular, that Earth's past orbit cannot be reconstructed beyond 60 million years.

Astronomy & Astrophysics is publishing numerical simulations of the long-term evolution of the orbits of minor planets Ceres and Vesta, which are the largest bodies in the asteroid belt, between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is 6000 times less massive than Earth and almost 80 times less massive than our Moon. Vesta is almost four times less massive than Ceres. These two minor bodies, long thought to peacefully orbit in the asteroid belt, are found to affect their large neighbors and, in particular, Earth in a way that had not been anticipated.

The findings are shown in the new astronomical computations released by Jacques Laskar from Paris Observatory and his colleagues, who include J. Laskar, M. Gastineau, J.-B. Delisle, A. Farr้s (IMCCE, Observatoire de Paris, France), and A. Fienga (IMCCE/Observatoire de Paris and Observatoire de Besan็on, France).

Although small, Ceres and Vesta gravitationally interact together and with the other planets of the Solar System. Because of these interactions, they are continuously pulled or pushed slightly out of their initial orbit. Calculations show that, after some time, these effects do not average out. Consequently, the bodies leave their initial orbits and, more importantly, their orbits are chaotic, meaning that we cannot predict their positions. The two bodies also have a significant probability of impacting each other, estimated at 0.2% per billion year. Last but not least, Ceres and Vesta gravitationally interact with Earth, whose orbit also becomes unpredictable after only 60 million years. This means that Earth's eccentricity, which affects the large climatic variations on its surface, cannot be traced back more than 60 million years ago. This is indeed bad news for Paleoclimate studies.

This unexpected discovery comes at a time when both objects are the targets of the NASA/Dawn mission. The Dawn probe will encounter Ceres in February 2015. At present, Dawn is approaching Vesta, and the flyby will occur on this coming Saturday, July 16, 2011.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Astronomy & Astrophysics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. J. Laskar, M. Gastineau, J.-B. Delisle, A. Farr้s, A. Fienga. Strong chaos induced by close encounters with Ceres and Vesta. Astronomy & Astrophysics, 2011; 532: L4 DOI: 10.1051/0004-6361/201117504

Cite This Page:

Astronomy & Astrophysics. "When minor planets Ceres and Vesta rock Earth into chaos." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110715135156.htm>.
Astronomy & Astrophysics. (2011, July 18). When minor planets Ceres and Vesta rock Earth into chaos. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110715135156.htm
Astronomy & Astrophysics. "When minor planets Ceres and Vesta rock Earth into chaos." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110715135156.htm (accessed April 25, 2014).

Share This



More Space & Time News

Friday, April 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Risk of Asteroid Hitting Earth Higher Than Thought, Study Shows

Reuters - US Online Video (Apr. 23, 2014) — A group of space explorers say the chance of a city-obliterating asteroid striking Earth is higher than scientists previously believed. Deborah Gembara reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Nuclear-Level Asteroids Might Be More Common Than We Realize

Newsy (Apr. 23, 2014) — The B612 Foundation says asteroids strike Earth much more often than previously thought, and are hoping to build an early warning system. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Two US Astronauts Step out on Spacewalk for ISS Repairs

Two US Astronauts Step out on Spacewalk for ISS Repairs

AFP (Apr. 23, 2014) — Two US astronauts stepped out on a brief spacewalk Wednesday to install a backup computer at the International Space Station after one failed earlier this month. Duration: 00:40 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

NASA Chief Outlines Plan for Human Mission to Mars

AFP (Apr. 22, 2014) — NASA administrator Charles Bolden, speaking at the 'Human to Mars Summit' in Washington, says that learning more about the Red Planet can help answer the 'fundamental question' of 'life beyond Earth'. Duration: 00:48 Video provided by AFP
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:
from the past week

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