Do Missing Jupiters Mean Massive Comet Belts?


Debris disc around GJ 581. Credit: ESA/AOES

Debris disc around GJ 581. Credit: ESA/AOES

Using ESA’s Herschel space observatory, astronomers have discovered vast comet belts surrounding two nearby planetary systems known to host only Earth-to-Neptune-mass worlds. The comet reservoirs could have delivered life-giving oceans to the innermost planets. Interestingly, however, there is no evidence for giant Jupiter- or Saturn-mass planets in either system.

In a previous Herschel study, scientists found that the dusty belt surrounding nearby star Fomalhaut must be maintained by collisions between comets. In the new Herschel study, two more nearby planetary systems – GJ 581 and 61 Vir – have been found to host vast amounts of cometary debris.

Herschel detected the signatures of cold dust at 200ºC below freezing, in quantities that mean these systems must have at least 10 times more comets than in our own Solar System’s Kuiper Belt.

The gravitational interplay between Jupiter and Saturn in our own Solar System is thought to have been responsible for disrupting a once highly populated Kuiper Belt, sending a deluge of comets towards the inner planets in a cataclysmic event that lasted several million years.

Full Story: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Herschel/SEMVDXDQZ9H_0.html
Also: http://www.ras.org.uk/news-and-press/219-news-2012/2192-do-missing-jupiters-mean-massive-comet-belts

Advertisements
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: