Home > Amateur Astronomy, Astronomy, Comets, Earth, Jupiter, Meteor Showers, Solar System > Jupiter Helps Halley’s Comet Give Us Meteor Displays

Jupiter Helps Halley’s Comet Give Us Meteor Displays


Image Credit MPS Germany/H.U. Keller/ESA

Image Credit MPS Germany/H.U. Keller/ESA

The dramatic appearance of Halley’s comet in the night sky has been observed and recorded by astronomers since 240 BC. Now a study shows that the orbital influences of Jupiter on the comet and the debris it leaves in its wake are responsible for periodic outbursts of activity in the Orionid meteor showers. The results will be presented by Aswin Sekhar at the National Astronomy Meeting in Manchester on Tuesday 27th March.

Halley’s comet orbits the Sun every 75-76 years on average. As its nucleus approaches the Sun, it heats up and releases gas and dust that form the spectacular tail. This outgassing leaves a trail of debris around the orbit.

When the Earth crosses Halley’s path – twice per orbit – dust particles (meteoroids) burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere and we see meteor showers: the Orionids in October and the Eta Aquariids in May. Previous research has suggested that Orionid meteoroids have at times fallen into ‘resonances’ with Jupiter’s orbit – a numerical relationship that influences orbital behaviour. Sekhar’s new study suggests that Halley itself has been in resonances with Jupiter in the past, which in turn would increase the chances of populating resonant meteoroids in the stream. The particles ejected during those times experience a tendency to clump together due to periodic effects from Jupiter.

Full Story: http://www.jodrellbank.manchester.ac.uk/meetings/nam2012/pressreleases/nam07.html

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