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Comparing the Earth impact flux from comets and Near-Earth Asteroids

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dc.contributor.author Yeomans, Donald K.
dc.contributor.author Chamberlin, Alan B.
dc.date.accessioned 2013-10-17T22:17:34Z
dc.date.available 2013-10-17T22:17:34Z
dc.date.issued 2011-05-09
dc.identifier.citation IAA Planetary Defense Conference, Bucharest, Romania, May 9-12, 2011 en_US
dc.identifier.clearanceno 11-2133
dc.identifier.uri http://hdl.handle.net/2014/43913
dc.description.abstract Long-period comets (LPC), defined here as those active comets with orbital periods greater than 200 years, are the most difficult objects to mitigate should one be found on an Earth threatening trajectory. The arrival of these objects from the distant Oort cloud cannot be predicted and the impact warning time would be measured in a few months – not years. At the distance of Jupiter, an inactive cometary nucleus with a diameter of one kilometer and a geometric albedo equal to 0.04 would have an apparent magnitude fainter than 25 near opposition and, hence would be well outside the detection capability of current NEO search telescopes. In general LPCs do not become active, and hence discoverable, until inside the orbit of Jupiter and it takes but nine months for a LPC to travel the distance from Jupiter’s orbit to that of the Earth. Estimating the impact energy for long-period comets is particularly difficult because the sizes and masses of these objects are not well known. Their solid nuclei are hidden from ground-based telescopes by their gas and dust atmospheres and even when nearby spacecraft observations can determine a size and shape for a cometary nucleus, there are no direct determinations of any cometary mass or bulk density to date. However, a variety of indirect bulk density determinations consistently provide values below one gram per cubic centimeter, the value for water [1]. From measurements made by the Deep Impact spacecraft during its encounter with comet Tempel 1 in July 2005, the bulk density was estimated to be 0.6 grams per cubic centimeter [2]. The mean impact velocity of a LPC is about 51 km/s, three times the 17 km/s value for a typical near-Earth asteroid (NEA) so the impact energy for an LPC would be 9 times that of a NEA of similar mass. However, the bulk density of a comet (~ 0.6 g/cm3) is several times less than the density of a stony NEA (~2.6 g cm3) so for a LPC and a stony NEA of the same size, the LPC’s impact energy would be about twice that of the NEA. To properly allocate the limited resources available for NEO surveys and physical characterization, it is important to understand the relative threat from long-period comets versus the threat posed by near-Earth asteroids. en_US
dc.description.sponsorship NASA/JPL en_US
dc.language.iso en_US en_US
dc.publisher Pasadena, CA : Jet Propulsion Laboratory, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 2011. en_US
dc.subject near Earth objects en_US
dc.subject comets en_US
dc.subject asteriods en_US
dc.title Comparing the Earth impact flux from comets and Near-Earth Asteroids en_US
dc.type Preprint en_US


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