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Space Science

Kuiper Belt Collision Found; Possible Comet Source 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."
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Kuiper Belt Collision Found; Possible Comet Source

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  • Kuiper Crash (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Stanistani ( 808333 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @04:44PM (#18367507) Homepage Journal
    How does the "dirty snowball" composition of comets fit into this theory?
    Wouldn't the result resemble asteroids rather than comets?
    • 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: (Score:2, Funny)

      by stratjakt ( 596332 )
      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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Stanistani ( 808333 )
        "Sorry, Fry, But scientists renamed Uranus in 2620 to end that stupid joke."

        What's it called now?"

    • Re:Kuiper Crash (Score:4, Insightful)

      by siglercm ( 6059 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:57PM (#18368451) Journal

      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.

      • 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.
    • A "dirty snowball" sounds like something that would cost extra in a brothel.
    • 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.
  • 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?
  • 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?
  • What about Pluto? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by benhocking ( 724439 ) <> on Thursday March 15, 2007 @04:50PM (#18367583) Homepage Journal
    What about Pluto, Charon, Hydra, and Nix? Couldn't they be such a family?
    • by isorox ( 205688 )
      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? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Feyr ( 449684 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @04:51PM (#18367595) Journal
    outside of our solar system? neptune belongs to this solar system. []
  • I guess Larry Niven had it right.
  • Someone call the best deep core driller! *cue Bruce Willis*
  • I think we all know the source of these fragments:

    "Deado Scream"
    • by Tablizer ( 95088 )
      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?
    • by Kutsal ( 514445 )

      They're the remnants of an ancient Imperial Outpost destroyed by an Achuultani attack... ;)
  • Anyone have a link to the total number of Kuipier Belt objects they've found? It hasn't past 100 yet has it?

  • shaped like a M&M (Score:4, Informative)

    by daniel23 ( 605413 ) on Thursday March 15, 2007 @05:11PM (#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 []

    The Link has a animated model of the thing and a schematic of its structure that looks like candy..
    • by siglercm ( 6059 )
      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: (Score:3, Funny)

      It appears to have a thin crunchy shell of rock on the outside with a core composed primarily of rich dark matter.
    • by Sinical ( 14215 )

      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.


  • 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.
  • This reminds me of the work of Boris Velikovsky. Of course, citing him would be like a Christian seminarian citing the satanic bible.
    • 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.
    • 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 mis
  • A picture taken through a piece of cardboard with three holes in it. The sun is in the lower left.
  • 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?
    • by siglercm ( 6059 )
      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 :-)
    • 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.
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )
        we already have an idea where the suns gravitation force is equal to the forces of deep space.
        Thats the line....sphere really.
  • >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.
    • 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.

  • 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: [])? 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
    • Well, nuclear bombs is a standard journalism unit. The best part is, it is interchangeable for power and energy without dividing by time! And 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

  • 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? []

    Join the Mobile Infantry and save the world! Service guarantees citizenship!
  • That's no giant remnant of a cosmic collision...
  • 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!

Man is an animal that makes bargains: no other animal does this-- no dog exchanges bones with another. -- Adam Smith