Comet Graveyard Discovered Between Jupiter And Mars

A massive comet graveyard was discovered between Mars and Jupiter by scientists with the University of Anitoquia in Medellin, Colombia.

The comet graveyard is located in the asteroid belt between the two planets. Some of the former icy wanderers have been revived by the sun’d nudge.

Study author Ignacio Ferrin explained that the asteroids go around the sun for hundreds of years with no activity. But, as AFP reports, he added:

“We have found that some of these are not dead rocks after all, but are dormant comets that may yet come back to life if the energy they receive from the sun increases by a few percent.”

Comets are traditionally believed to come from the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud, both of which lie very very far from the sun. But Ferrin and his colleagues followed a discovery made by other astronomers, who found at least 12 active comets in the main asteroid belt in the past 10 years.

Before then, the comet graveyard was often considered a dumping ground for space rocks from a failed unborn planet. The new study, published in the Monthly Notices of Britain’s Royal Astronomical Society, denies this.

The Australian notes that the comets in their desolate graveyard can come back to life when they pass close to Jupiter. The gas giant’s pull can cause the shape of the comets’ orbits to change.

But unlike fellow comets ISON and Swift-Tuttle, the ones inside the asteroid belt probably won’t ever leave. And sightings of them suggest the icy balls only move inside the mass of asteroids, instead of swinging out on their own.

Called Lazarus comets, the celestial bodies are also only active for days or weeks, rather than months or years. Therefore, despite their close proximity to Earth, there is no danger of a potential collision.

[Image via ShutterStock]

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