A Newly Discovered Comet Brings Tidings From the Oort Cloud

By Eliza Strickland | August 18, 2008 4:58 pm

comet from Oort CloudAstronomers have spotted an icy object near Neptune that they say hails from the distant Oort Cloud, the distant reservoir of asteroids that encircles the solar system out beyond the orbit of Pluto. The object, at least 30 miles wide, is on the return leg of a 22,500-year journey around the sun, astronomers announced today [SPACE.com].

The new object is about 60 miles in diameter. “It’s basically a comet, but it never gets close enough to the Sun to develop a long, bright tail of evaporated gas and dust,” [lead researcher Andrew] Becker said in a statement [Reuters]. Researchers say the newly discovered voyager, which is currently going by the unromantic name 2006 SQ372, is the first object ever sighted from the inner Oort Cloud, a region that astronomers know very little about.

Studying the comet as it makes its way through the solar system could give astronomers new insight into the Oort Cloud’s composition, says co-discoverer Nathan Kaib: “Comets like SQ372 have the potential to tell us what the entire Oort Cloud looks like, which will test theoretical models of the cloud’s formation as well as provide clues about the environment that the solar system first formed in” [Science News]. Researchers believe that the cloud’s contents once lurked near Jupiter and the other gas giants back in the solar system’s distant past, but were knocked away through gravitational encounters with the planets.

Researchers found the comet in data gathered by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey that scanned the same stretch of sky in the autumns of 2005, 2006, and 2007; the discovery was announced at an international symposium covering research involving the Sloan Survey. Other objects from the inner Oort cloud are likely to be found soon, as powerful new survey telescopes are built. “I would expect them to discover thousands of such objects, and with a data set so large, we could do a pretty good job in finding out what the inner Oort cloud looks like,” [New Scientist], says Kaib.

Image: A. Becker and the SDSS

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space
  • jaime

    what about planet x???…or as some call it 2001 KX76…or nibiru??
    what’s the deal with this planet or object…very curious..

  • jaime

    is it really coming our way??

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/ Eliza Strickland

    In answer to these questions: Nibiru is a mythical planet dreamed up by the author Zecharia Sitchin. His work has been widely discredited by astronomers.

    As for SQ372, it’s not headed towards Earth, but is instead zooming back out towards the edge of the solar system. The comet is currently 2 billion miles from Earth, and it will eventually travel 150 billion miles out to reach the inner Oort Cloud.

  • Charles

    So no chance of this object becoming a centaur?

  • http://freeufc.info Mark James

    I have read many places of object that hits earth every 22ooo years, this seens a little wierd that this object has a 22k year orbit also, I think I will buy a hardhat today.

    http://freeufc.info

  • lee

    ‘In answer to these questions: Nibiru is a mythical planet dreamed up by the author Zecharia Sitchin. His work has been widely discredited by astronomers.’
    I dont recall him dreaming it up!

    ASTRONOMERS discredit many things as they understand very little with predictions favoring the electric universe model. (which they do not in the dogma like paying attention too)
    not saying it is…. but cant say nibiru planet x etc isnt returning either.
    ‘its a big we just don’t know’

  • Jeff

    “ASTRONOMERS discredit many things as they understand very little with predictions favoring the electric universe model. (which they do not in the dogma like paying attention too) not saying it is?. but cant say nibiru planet x etc isnt returning either.?its a big we just don?t know?”

    No. Astronomers are scientists. They say “We know what we know and here is how; Here are the predictions we make if our hypotheses are correct. Here are the experiments to test those predictions. And here are the results and the evidence of those experiments.” That’s ALL they say. They rule nothing out unless there is good evidence from many scientific disiplines to rule it out.

    However pseudo-scientists who think they are smarter than real scientists, conspiracy theorist, claimed victims of, or believers in, alien abductions, homeopathy, crop circles, planet X’s, yeti, Scientology, and believers in all other rediculous pseudo-sciences, do run around accusing legitimate scientists of not knowing, not caring, ignoring them. Boo hoo. The world is full of scientificaly illiterate people (the USA especially). And comments like those above prove that hypothesis conclusively.

  • john

    This comet does bring into insight some of the reported foresights that were reported by the mayans and sumerians. it is very interesting also because they have also stated that its currents course is very unstable.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

80beats

80beats is DISCOVER's news aggregator, weaving together the choicest tidbits from the best articles covering the day's most compelling topics.
ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »